At 8, barely off the boat from Shanghai, I found my way to the American Dream, courtesy of my love for Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play major league baseball.
Now there's Chien-Ming Wang. He's a member of my tribe. He too wrestles with English. But he has more in common with Jackie than with me. The Yankees ace won 19 games last year, and as runner-up for the Cy Young Award, he is a rising star. In his island home, he is already a supernova. Whenever he pitches, whether it's a live telecast or a rerun, Taiwan ditches its political woes and personal cares to huddle in the most unlikely placesfrom bars to beauty parlors to boardroomsto cheer Chien-Ming. No matter that the fan shouting alongside is mandarin or mendicant, from the mainland or local born, a great-great-grandma with bound feet or a bare-bottomed tot, the voices are one.
Once Jackie's excellence and elegance broke the color barrier. Nowadays the Ichiros, Dice-Ks and Chien-Mings of baseball are chipping away at the culture barrier. At a time when clashes of civilizations warm up in the on-deck circle, this 8-year-old heart dreams of a world as hopeful and intimate as bygone Ebbets Field.
Lord is the author of In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
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