Even though Jim Abbott was born without a right hand, he won a gold medal for the 1988 U.S. Olympic baseball team and threw a no- hitter for the New York Yankees. Curtis Pride and Pete Gray, both outfielders, are deaf. And John Lester and Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs and cancer survivors, recently presented their long-suffering fans with a World Series title.
They and other baseball players with disabilities were honored in 2015 by Topps Baseball Cards. In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Topps launched a series of baseball cards honoring players with disabilities.
“People with disabilities are often looked at for what they can’t do instead of being appreciated for what they can do…Imagine if a child or the parent of a child with a disability, by simply opening a pack of baseball cards, discovers that one or their heroes was legally blind or deaf or has battled cancer? They should truly feel empowered and encouraged,” said the Cubs’ medical director Mark O’Neal.
And just a few days ago, the Kansas City Royals signed the first baseball player with autism.
Baseball has a long and proud history of being among the first American institutions to break civil rights barriers. They did it with Jackie Robinson and other racial minorities, and they have also done it with players with disabilities.
Of course, baseball is dimished if people can’t watch it. So in my next post, I’ll talk about the progress made in allowing spectators with disabilities into baseball games.
See the two USA Today articles below (as well as Joe Shapiro’s facebook page) for more information.