About Those Philadelphia Little Leaguers

The Curmudgeon was on vacation during the nearly two weeks when the little league baseball team from Philadelphia, with its female pitcher Mo’Ne Davis, captured the hearts of the residents of her home town and millions across the country. When he heard the name of the team, though – the Taney Dragons – little alarms went off in his head but because he was away from home and lacked internet access he had no way to investigate the source of the alarm.

But he was wondering: could the team possibly be named after the 19th century Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney? (You see, Miss Wolk, Mrs. Breitweg, Mr. Black, and Mr. Brown, The Curmudgeon WAS paying attention in your class.)

That, in turn, raised two issues.

First, while the team pronounces its name “Tay-nee,” the Supreme Court justice’s name was pronounced “Taw-nee.”

And second, didn’t Justice Taney write the opinion in the Dred Scott case in which he declared that African-Americans, whether slave or free, were not and could not ever be citizens and that they therefore had no right to sue in federal court, which in turn invalidated the Missouri Compromise (The Curmudgeon is confident this term rings a bell for readers even if they don’t remember exactly what it was), which meant that the slave Dred Scott, taken by his owner from a slave state to a free state, had no right to sue for his freedom on the basis that he was then in a free state?

And wouldn’t it be ironic, and more than a bit appalling, that this wonderful team of young people, with a number of African-American members, was indirectly named after the judge who rendered this unconscionable verdict?

Well, it turns out that the baseball organization of which the team is a part is, in fact, named after a street in Philadelphia that was named after Justice Taney. The sentiment behind the street acquiring this name, moreover, is as unambiguous as it is repulsive: the street originally had another name and was renamed in honor of the dishonorable judge just a year after his deplorable decision. (This isn’t entirely surprising: just sixteen years earlier, in 1842, Philadelphia had experienced “Negro riots” in which a parade of young blacks celebrating the anniversary of the end of slavery in the British West Indies was attacked by a mob of Irish Catholics, who would themselves be on the receiving end of anti-Irish riots in Philadelphia just two years later. Philadelphia’s nickname of “city of brotherly love,” you see, has always been more aspirational than earned.)

While The Curmudgeon has long disliked televised little league because he’s seen too many of its games end with participants in tears, the accomplishments of the Taney Dragons certainly are to be celebrated. At the same time, however, The Curmudgeon hopes that someone will give the adults who lead the organization a much-needed history lesson and that by the time the team competes next year it will do so with a new name.

*     *     *

(Aside to SS:  Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris, get well soon.)

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  • Dorothy Cuccinelli  On September 2, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Welcome back! Your absence left I void in my life…omg, I may have no life lol
    in any event…you were missed

  • foureyedcurmudgeon  On September 2, 2014 at 7:19 am

    Thank you for the kind words. It’s good to be back!

  • Peaches Shimmerdeep  On September 2, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Welcome back! You were missed. Great blog today. One thought: a diverse team with a strong African American female pitcher who made history this summer might be right in feeling that keeping the Taney name and changing forever what people think of when hearing it is the ultimate revenge.

    • foureyedcurmudgeon  On September 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      That assumes they know the history, which I suspect they do not. I also suspect, though, that I would not feel that way if a Jewish team called itself the Hitlers.

      Thanks for the welcome back.

  • Peaches Shimmerdeep  On September 2, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Fair point. I may be overusing the “lemons/lemonade” approach– I just like the idea of co-opting the negative and turning it around.

    • foureyedcurmudgeon  On September 2, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      Well, you ARE an optimist. Once, The Curmudgeon explained to a co-worker that the difference between him and that co-worker was that when someone gave that co-worker a glass of water 50% filled, it was filled and it was great water and it was more than he wanted and needed while The Curmudgeon wanted to know who the hell asked for water in the first place.

      All things considered, The Curmudgeon would prefer to be like thee, but that’s just not how it worked out. Once, a relative admonished The Curmudgeon about his blog and suggested that he skip all the critical stuff and just write the nice things. Why don’t you do that, he asked? Because, The Curmudgeon replied, the name of the blog is The Four-Eyed Curmudgeon, not the Four-Eyed Pollyanna. (Not, by the way, that he’s saying anyone’s a pollyanna.)

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