As the composer of “The Summer King, An Opera on the Life of Josh Gibson,” I was grateful for Christopher Hyde’s suggestion that the Red Sox come on board to support the opera (“Classical Beat: USM composer’s operatic ode to a heroic – and tragic – baseball legend,” Dec. 22).

Unlike letter writer Ted Hargrove (“Must Press Herald reviewer dredge up Red Sox’ old slight?,” Jan. 9), I did not see this as a “cheap shot.” Institutions, like nations, own their history, even after leadership has changed and they have embraced the modern era.

The Red Sox are an honorable organization, but their history with race during the first decade of integration was abysmal, letting Hall of Fame players like Willie Mays and Billy Williams slip through their fingers solely because they were black.

Some carry worse burdens of history. Visiting Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, I was struck by that city’s effort to preserve its past. Germany today is not Germany in 1944, but they have rightly understood their obligation to address their collective mistakes.

Hiring Jim Rice, Earl Wilson, Tommy Harper, Mo Vaughn, Pedro Martinez and Big Papi well past integration, when ignoring such talent would be competitive suicide and publicly unjustifiable, is not particularly redemptive.

Nor can the individual action of a retired player – Ted Williams’ selfless and heroic speech at his Hall of Fame induction – stand for the organization as a whole.


Mr. Hyde was offering the Red Sox an opportunity to re-engage that painful chapter, and to carve a new niche in the ongoing dynamic of race relations in professional sports.

Are they obligated to support a contemporary opera about Josh Gibson? Of course not. Could they do it for less than the cost of a single player’s salary for one game? Definitely.

Daniel Sonenberg

associate professor, University of Southern Maine

Peaks Island

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