Finally, I watched a movie, “42” the story about life of Jackie Robinson, first Black player in Major League. I did read a book, “42: A Biography of Jack ‘Jackie’ Robinson” by Frank Foster last year before I watched the movie today. Please let me know if you have better suggestion to read a book about the baseball hero. The movie was well crafted and impressive! If it was not for Mr. Branch Rickey, the owner of Brooklyn Dodgers, it would not the same!
Robinson has gone through the greatest challenge to overcome one of the human’s worst prejudices and the restrictive stigma of the Racism roots. After Robinson retired from baseball, he became very good activist. I would like to share my experience playing baseball in a small town. Yes, I may be white Deaf male–the focus of this blog post is to write about my experience as Deaf person.
The generation of Toziers—my grandfather, father and my brother played baseball. In this small town (that time it was less than 500 people), my father was a “legendary” because he told me stories that he hit no more around 100 home runs—right handed and left handed. Even though baseball scouts came over to watch him play but…. he was not tall enough to fit in baseball’s guidelines. It was kind of stereotypical to me at least. Of course, the town knew me as my father’s first son who happens to be Deaf. I became a bigger stereotypical. At the same time, my dad taught me all the ropes how to play baseball at home and we would throw balls each other along with my brother. That time was one of the best times.
I lived on large property that would be around 400 acres that time. My dad would build a mini-baseball field just for my brother and myself to learn how to hit balls and learn baseball’s mystic rules. My dad knew that I had athletic skills because it runs in the family. My grandfather was a long-distance runner. So, he wanted me to play the best and maybe he wanted me to play better than my dad did. Who knows?
Less than three miles from my childhood residence, there was a baseball park ranging from T-ball to little leagues to big leagues. At the same time, I had faced uphill battle with bullies even with my head coach. The first year, 1984, [I was ten years old] I played on the baseball team that ended up first place. I was proud of it! The hardest part is that I faced plenty of Audism and bullying. I mean, big time. I just was not aware that time….what do you expect?
For the next few years, I played as shortstop, right-centered, left-centered, second base, third base, and few times I had been asked to pitch. I guess I had high expectations—I admit that I did not hit very well enough, the only things I was good as fastest runner, and throw long-distance. Hitting was my weaker spot. Baseball season would start in late spring through summer time.
In 1987, I joined wrestling in seventh grade, and fell in love with wrestling. Of course, I continued to play baseball but not for long. One year later, a guy in school was bullying me big time and made fun of me as being Deaf and I had to defend myself then ended up in principal’s office. Remember, I was mainstreamed in the strong hearing oriented environment that does not understand Deaf discourses. It was really difficult time for me.
That day when I got bullied then the principal decided to suspend me because he sided with that bully instead. Always one-sided story! Half hour later before school was over for the day then I went into the bathroom and changed my clothes getting ready for baseball practice then jumped on small school bus and the driver knew that I was in hurry, so the driver was bit nice enough to rush up little bit faster. It was 45 minutes drive away. I would be always the last kid to be dropped off.
So, I walked onto the baseball field getting ready for practice, my father came up to me and said to me, “I got a phone call saying that you got in fight with someone” and I tried to explain everything, but my dad refused to hear my story because…. lack of sign language. It was a major barrier and told me that I no longer welcome on the team anymore. I was heartbroken. I was totally embarrassed that time….front of teammates. I remember…and that was the last time I played baseball for good. That was why I stick with wrestling forever. It belongs to my heart.
That year the team went undefeated even though I was selected as starting shortstop. I overcome the barriers just to make my dad happy. There were some really good players and ended up first place and got beaten in state’s finals. I never get to see the glory again. I became the scapegoat. My life at home became harder and people in that town ignored my pain.
The head coach, Mr. Tom Dunn, was an asshole. I played under him few times and would allow players to bully me. Oh, I have plenty of stories about that. There was an assistant coach, Mr. Billy Tester who was in a wheelchair, he was supportive of me and would tell me with “thumbs up” and tell me to keep my head up. He was really cool. I told myself that I’d make Tom Dunn pay back someday. I determined to change myself for better.
That was in 1988. The hardest part that I was not even aware about historic Deaf President Now around the same time. How embarrassing! Fast forward—2011—one month after I graduated from Portland State University with three degrees all with honors, I decided to visit my father and I bought a good friend of mine who was ASL interpreter, so we could have good conversation for a change. We sat outside on the deck for two hours and decided it was enough.
My friend and I then decided to have cold beer and late lunch, so we decided to drive over at a local bar, and I have not seen those people in less than 15, 20 years. We were sitting down on a table ordering something to eat and drink. My friend was overhearing those people who were talking really shit, the language of sexism, and racism, it was so bad that it made my friend very uncomfortable. That town was full of rednecks and white privileges. There was no Black person living in that town as far as I can remember.
Funny thing…. on a stool, a man was talking shit to a logger, and I realized that man was Tom Dunn! I was like, what the fuck? He did not even recognize me at all because of my beard and my bigger size. So, I decided to get up and confront him, of course, with my interpreter by my side, and I said, “You Tom Dunn?” and he said, “Yeah, what is to you?” and I chuckled and looked straight at his eyes slowly. Then he realized who I was and he became very surprised. You have no idea.
When I signed in ASL, Tom said, “Wow. I did not realize that you are really smart” and of course, I was offended and realized it was my time to give him a payback for what he had done to me by allowing bullies to throw water balloons and shit at me even he laughed front of me. Man, Tom was fucking asshole! Then the drunk logger who he was talking to, and Tom told that logger, “Hey, I want to introduce you that guy is Deaf and Dumb who played baseball under me” and I quickly stopped that language and told him that I did not appreciate his language. I felt good about that. The restrictive stigma of the Audism roots.
It was no more than 10 minutes conversation and it was time for me to leave the premise. Now all these years being bullied and I never knew what he would say shit to those kids about me. I bet he would call me worst names, “That fucking Deaf boy!” Now, I know why because I was Deaf. Damn! Then few days later, my brother ran into Tom at a local store and he said to him, “I heard that my brother rebutted you real good” with a smile and Tom, of course, denied because he did not want to know that he got shit-faced by someone who is Deaf. I got my wish back.
My friend was in awe how much shit I went through in that town all those years I lived there. I just did not realize it was Audism that time. I was just a kid for fuck’s sake. I became a better activist after that. I determined to stop the language of hate and Audism. My team may not make it to Little World Series, and the sweet part is that last year I got to visit the famous Little World Series field with friends on a beautiful day, empty audience and felt the glory just to overcome Audism. That was best feeling. That was all matters the most. Know what I mean by that? Now, no wonder why Jackie Robinson is hero!
‘Deaf and dumb’ was never cool. The quote I saw would be good fitting to this, someone once wrote, “being DEAF does not make you DUMB, just as being HEARING does not make you SMART.”
Who is dumb now?
Copyright © 2017 Jason Tozier
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