For those few seconds when the fans at Fenway Park stood and cheered for Adam Jones, for those few seconds when Jones stepped out of the batter's box and subtly nodded his appreciation, for those few seconds, I heard the voice of the late Buck O'Neil, perhaps the most graceful
For those few seconds when the fans at Fenway Park stood and cheered for Adam Jones, for those few seconds when Jones stepped out of the batter's box and subtly nodded his appreciation, for those few seconds, I heard the voice of the late Buck O'Neil, perhaps the most graceful voice on race in baseball history.
"There are always more good people than bad in this world," he would say. "That's why I have so much hope."
O'Neil did have hope, all his life. He was the grandson of a slave, a player and manager in the Negro Leagues, the first black coach in Major League Baseball. O'Neil was a man who was denied his chance to play in the big leagues but much more denied a place at the white high school in his town. He was a man sent to the kitchen to eat, a man refused the right to use certain bathrooms, a man who endured. Through it all, somehow, O'Neil always had hope.
• Justice: No place for what Jones faced
And I know that the thing O'Neil would take out of the shameful racial taunting of Jones on Monday is … well … hope.
How? Well, Monday was a lousy day, no question, lousy because an idiot at Fenway Park threw peanuts at Jones, and an unspecified number of people shouted racial epithets that don't belong in any century.
"I thought we've moved past that a long time ago," Jones would say, and, yes, so many of us thought the same thing.
Monday was a lousy day, lousy because we were forced to see once again that, no, we have not moved past that. As Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and O'Neil's close friend, said: "It reminds us that while we've made great progress there is still a lot of work to do."
Monday was a lousy day because it opened wounds as African-American players throughout baseball, past and present, remembered their own moments of pain with fans in the game.
"I've been called that word in almost every city that I've played in," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "Minor Leagues. Big leagues."
"It happened to me in the '90s," former All-Star Reggie Sanders said. "It is unfortunate we still have rude and classless people in this world."
But Tuesday … well, O'Neil would say that Tuesday was a good day. Tuesday, all around baseball -- from fans to players to management to media -- you saw universal support of Jones. You saw the Boston Red Sox, from ownership to management on down, apologize publicly, then apologize personally to Jones. But they did more than apologize. They promised to do something about it.
"Whether we ultimately revoke the tickets from someone who engages in this type of behavior or ban someone from the ballpark for a year, or for life," Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said, "it's just not acceptable behavior, and we're not going to tolerate it."
You heard players talk openly about their own experiences. Some players, like Carsten Sabathia and David Price, said for the first time that, yes, they had dealt with racial taunts before.
"It comes with the job," White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson confided.
And as unacceptable as that is -- racial taunting absolutely should not come with any job -- being made constantly aware of this is an important step.
And other players, non-African-Americans, talked about how hard this hit them, too, how sickened they are by this, and how much they will insist on changing the culture.
"That stinks, man," Chicago's Todd Frazier said. "I really wish that stuff like that really never occurred. I can't believe it still goes on today."
"It's disturbing and disappointing, and there's no place for it," Boston's Rick Porcello said. "I can't say it's shocking … but, I can say it's extremely upsetting. There's just absolutely no place for it."
"The only good thing, if anything," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, "is it brings focus on this. That's about the only good thing."
But that's something, and it's something important. Every April, baseball celebrates its greatest triumph, the triumph of Jackie Robinson. But there is only a Jackie Robinson Day because of the evils that forced him into his heroic life. There is only a Jackie Robinson Day because for a half-century, dark-skinned players had to play baseball in the shadows, in the Negro Leagues, because African-Americans were diabolically treated as inferior.
Jackie Robinson was the good that came from that, the good that came from the pain of Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell and Turkey Stearnes and all those extraordinary players who did not get to play in the big leagues. Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby and Roy Campanella and Minnie Minoso and Don Newcombe and Willie Mays and Henry Aaron and so many others -- they were the good that helped reshape not only the game, but America.
The reshaping still goes on.
"We have far more in common than we do differences," Kendrick said, echoing the core ideal of the Negro Leagues Museum. "And we shouldn't shun our differences, but rather embrace them. I hope Adam and others who help make our sport great, take solace in knowing that there is a proud legacy in baseball of overcoming adversity."
On Tuesday evening, in bright sunshine, Adam Jones stepped to the plate, and a few Red Sox fans stood and applauded, then a few more, then more, then it was more or less the entire stadium. It was just a few seconds, a small gesture, but it did mean something. There are more good people than bad in this world. And Buck O'Neil was right. That's what gives us hope.
Joe Posnanski is an executive columnist for MLB.com.