Sotomayor, baseball, and Hispanic heritage

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court began their annual session with the newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, joining in for the first time. And she jumped right in with both feet, asking lots of questions of the lawyers appearing before the court that day.

A couple of weeks ago, as part of the New York Yankees’ Hispanic Heritage Month, Sotomayor threw out the first pitch as the team met (and defeated) the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.Sotomayor throws first pitch at Yankee Stadium

Sotomayor, a long-time Yankees fan, a Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent, and the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court, fired a pitch to catcher and Puerto Rican native Jose Molina. (She was escorted out to the mound moments earlier by another Puerto Rican catcher, Jorge Posada.) After the pitch, Yankees manager Joe Girardi reportedly said to the Justice, “We’ll be calling you next week with a contract.” He later reported that the Justice replied that “she’d stick to her day job.” In 1995, it was Sotomayor, a federal district court judge in Manhattan at the time, who famously issued a temporary injunction to end the 1994-95 baseball strike–many say she saved baseball.

The whole event got me to thinking both about baseball and about Puerto Rico. I was wondering when it was that throwing a ceremonial pitch first came into being and, more importantly, when that ceremony began to attract national politicians. To understand more on that, I’m going to consult two histories–covering the game before and after 1921: NEVER JUST A GAME and MUCH MORE THAN A GAME, both by Robert Burk.

Much More than a Game

Ayala - Puerto Rico in the American Century

The other interesting connection, of course, is between New York City and Puerto Rico.The indispensable history of the island is PUERTO RICO IN THE AMERICAN CENTURY: A HISTORY SINCE 1898,  by Cesar J. Ayala and Rafael Bernabe.

Both major- and minor-league baseball has been critical, of course, to the melding of Hispanic and American culture.

-Kate Torrey, UNC Press Director