Education

Austin Road Students Get Special Lesson in Baseball, Civil Rights

825956c9cd8e8ab9fd92_49032_.jpg
Eric Newland, wearing a Homestead Grays jersey, shows the kids photos of the many famous baseball players from the Negro Leagues who he has interviewed and written about. Credits: Tabitha Pearson Marshall
c63d6c4a438d0530c9f5_49033_.jpg
Austin Road students Cece Haberling, Camila Vallejo, Jadyn Suni, Brie Abate, Frankie Bellanco, Ellie Zito, Angelina Lulgjuraj and Kiera McGrinder, gather around Newland. Credits: Tabitha Pearson Marshall
825956c9cd8e8ab9fd92_49032_.jpg

MAHOPAC, N.Y.— It started out as a simple reading lesson and before you knew it, Beth Dore’s fifth-grade class at Austin Road Elementary School was immersed in a discussion of the civil rights movement and the eroding of the color barrier and segregation in Major League Baseball.

“We have a reading program, where we read excerpts of stories and one was about Satchel Paige,” said Dore, referring to the legendary Negro League pitcher.

Dore said the students read about Paige as well as Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. Clemente was Puerto Rican, but was considered a man of color. He got to play in the major leagues, while Paige—other than very late in his career—did not.

Sign Up for E-News

“The kids had to compare them and that’s what brought up the conversation—racism, segregation,” Dore said. “Even though Clemente played in the ‘white’ league, he still had many of the same struggles as Paige. Both of them endured racism [at places such as] restaurants and hotels.”

That inspired Dore to bring a special guest speaker—Bedford resident Eric Newland. Newland is considered to be one of the foremost experts on the Negro Leagues. He produced and hosted 26 aired cable interviews, “Inside Baseball,” as well as producing public service announcements on muscular dystrophy that used various New York Yankee stars as spokesmen. He was the executive producer for the first video yearbook that Major League Baseball produced for the Yankees.

But Newland’s passion is the history of the Negro Leagues. He produced and conducted close to 50 video interviews with former Negro League players, writers, and historians and received the Robert Peterson Award for spreading the history of the Negro Leagues. In 2014, he partnered with George Dalton to create the Parallel Game LLC and actively produced the project as an entertainment, educational and historic narrative told through the lens of Negro League baseball.  “The Parallel Game” documentary was selected by Yofifest Film Festival and the 20-minute film made its public debut in September 2016.  Newland’s passion for baseball and the Negro Leagues is currently in development as an episodic television series. 

“He brought in memorabilia—authentic Negro League jerseys and ball caps and team photos,” Dore said. “This has been a passion project for him and he interviewed many, many players, including Satchel Paige’s catcher. The kids were inspired. They asked him tons of questions and were excited to have him here.”

But what stood out, Dore said, was the outrage and confusion the kids expressed over what these players had to endure.

“They don’t understand [racism]. They don’t have a baseline and they get angry,” she said. “They asked, why didn’t they stop [the racism]. Why didn’t they do something about it?”

Newland took them back to the beginning of civil rights movement and explained that these black players simply played for the love of the game and that many things they did revolutionized baseball. They stole bases, something that didn’t happen much in the white leagues, and the played night games.

“The kids were wowed by this; these are all things we now take for granted,” Dore said. “That led to a discussion of Ruby Bridges (the first black child to desegregate an all-white school) all the way up to Martin Luther King Jr. and what’s happened over the past 100 years.

“The kids were baffled; it doesn’t make any sense to them,” she continued. “It’s very interesting as a teacher to listen to kids who don’t have knowledge of the past. They were upset.”

Dore said Newland’s visit has inspired her class to want to learn more.

“They want to do research,” she said. “They are in awe of these people like Paige and Jackie Robinson who wanted to stand up against [racism]. They said they wouldn’t have let it happen and they would have stood up.”

Dore said it’s wonderful when one subject she’s teaching finds synergy with another and brings students down a whole new path she never anticipated.

“It’s great that it starts in reading and flows over into social studies,” she said. “Now, the conversation goes right into today’s current events with things like [Trump’s] wall and immigration,” she said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Mahopac

I Do Not Make Stuff Up!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in my column, “Watergate analogies apply to Obama, not Trump,” that President Obama’s Justice Department planted a spy in the Trump campaign. I said I used the term “spy” because this was a counter-intelligence operation, not a criminal investigation, where the term informant would have been proper.

That statement has been brought ...

Here's What You Missed Last Week

Last week, the Daily News ran a headline, “When is our father coming home?” This dealt with a person here illegally, married to an American woman with a family, who was arrested at an Army base while delivering pizza. You are supposed to think that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under Trump, is tearing families apart. As usual, it was a crock of cow pies. It was ...

Reagan on Trump

The party of “Honest Abe” has now become the party of Dishonest Don, and what follows are some disturbing displays of a Republican Party that has become devoid of conscience:

• More than 4,600 American citizens dead in Puerto Rico—a postscript to the government’s abysmal response to the widespread devastation of Hurricane Maria; 
• The underhanded ...

The Rich Get Richer, and We’re Paying For It

According to a Harvard University study published late last year, most Americans believe that the richest 20 percent of Americans own just half of the nation’s wealth. Wrong! The top 20 percent own 93 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the top 1 percent own 40 percent of that wealth. Additionally, the top 10 percent of earners in 2017 took home more than half the nation’s ...

What Kind of Sports Parent Are You?

Social media recently showered a lot of likes and love on a high school pitcher in Minnesota whose team was playing in a regional final that would send the winning team to the state championship game.

After the last batter of the game struck out, the pitcher did something unheard of. Rather than spontaneously join his teammates in an on-field celebration, as is customary, the pitcher ...

Competing—Against Yourself

This is the time of year when students are recognized at public ceremonies for notable achievements in their studies, their sports and in their extracurricular pursuits.

Where we live, there are awards in various sports that are named for our son, who also is memorialized by town ballfield Harrison Apar Field of Dreams and a charitable foundation of the same name.

Due to a rare dwarfism, ...

I Come from the Land Down Under

I know this is a family column, so I’m going to put this in as delicate terms as possible.

This morning I woke up and I knew, as sure as the sun shines over Bora Bora, that something was very, very wrong in that place in my body where the Bora Bora sun doesn’t shine.

It’s that place I used to refer to my daughter as her hoo-hoo. But it certainly wasn’t a happy ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_b4cc78dd32adbbf57c97_2018_hiv_testing_day_eng

Wed, June 27, 9:00 AM

Putnam County Department of Health, Brewster

PCDOH Free HIV Testing Day

Health & Wellness