Sly Jazz

The National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, in Upstate New York, lays out the sport’s history like an allegory of the long American century, its tragedies and glories. A gallery with the feel of a mausoleum enshrines the finest 1 per cent of players. They came from farms and small towns and urban slums, bumpkins alongside toughs for whom the baseball bat might have had other uses. The Hall commemorates not only their prowess on the field but their “integrity, sportsmanship, character . . . and courage”. Those who served in the armed forces have small medallions fixed beneath their plaques (added in accordance with the sweeping militarization of American professional sports after 9/11, but referring mainly to the Second World War).

At the centre of the museum stands the figure of Jackie Robinson, who broke the colour line in 1947 to become the first black player in the Major Leagues. The “national pastime” led the way to integration, years before the Supreme Court. Robinson – college graduate, Army veteran – endured the taunts from the stands. He gazes out from the black-and-white photos, toward a point just beyond the horizon…


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