Sunday, April 16, 2017
His figure could have been cut out and pasted into the scene. But he belongs, this guy in a suit not afraid to get dirty. As perfect a metaphor for the political life of Vito Marcantonio as might be captured. The broad-shouldered ballplayers towering over his slight frame will not mistake him for some lightweight politician. Not with this throw. Marc grew up on the streets of East Harlem. He plays to win. The face is wrenched with exertion. Maybe he imagines the catcher's mitt as Mississippi John Rankin's head. The congressman's form has him doing what he should, bringing his throwing shoulder forward so that his chest fronts home plate. His release point is true; is that place at the top of his motion where a small orb of luminescent energy is ready to burst forth like some superhero's fireball. His left hand seemingly upholds his entire body, sustaining energy in motion on four fingertips. He is with black men in a time when black men are being lynched at a fairly brisk pace around the country. They play baseball in their own black leagues, because the white leagues won't have them. Marc would help change that with a call for congressional hearings on racial discrimination in major league baseball. He was not just around for the photograph, which depicts an Italian, showing off his chops at the signature American game, surrounded by what appear to be Cubans. This is Marcantonio's multi-colored counter-narrative to received American history, a story in which he was at ease and at play.