OUR SERIES CONCLUDES WITH AN EXAMINATION OF BOSTON, A CITY THAT IS ANATHEMA TO MANY BLACK ATHLETES; A PROFILE OF NBA HALL OF FAMER DAVE BING, NOW A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSMAN IN DETROIT; AND, ON PAGE 78, A POINT AFTER IN WHICH HARVARD PROFESSOR HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. CALLS SPORTS AN "OPIATE" FOR BLACK YOUTH.
Traffic is slow on Tremont street on a Saturday afternoon in Boston. Robert Foggie and John Bynoe stand outside Foggie's barbershop and take a bit of the sun. Foggie has been cutting hair for 55 years on this block. This is the ghetto, Roxbury. The slow tide of gentrification has stopped on the other side of Massachusetts Avenue, and the walk-around population is black, all black, as it has been for the longest while. The barbershop is a gathering place for conversation. A social center. This is where black athletes from the local teams always come for a shave and a trim. This is where a small-town heart of color beats in the midst of an often hostile city. Foggie and Bynoe are voices of that heart. The subject is sports.
Foggie: "Did you know the Red Sox had six black players in 1967?"
Foggie: "I've won a lot of money on this question. People can't believe it. I know there were six. I cut their heads."
Bynoe: "Six? Can't be."
Foggie: "George Scott. Reggie Smith. Elston Howard. John Wyatt. Joe Foy...."
Bynoe: "Earl Wilson?"
Foggie: "No, Earl was gone by then. Counting Jose Tartabull, there were six. I worked on all of them."
Six black players? The Red Sox? The number somehow seems unbelievable on a warm day in the summer of 1991.