Smart Talk, April 22 

Some kid

The Arkansas Times' favorite little rabblerouser, elementary school student Will Phillips of West Fork, is getting another award for his ongoing stand for gay rights. On May 8, Phillips will be the recipient of the Arkansas Civil Liberties Union Foundation's “Champion of Liberty” award during a banquet in Little Rock.

Last November, the Times reported on Phillips' peaceful protest in support of gay rights by remaining seated when his class stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance. After our story ran, Phillips got loads of national and international press over the incident, including a mention on The Daily Show, calls from famous well-wishers like Sir Ian McKellen (that's Gandalf, to all you folks from Middle Earth), an interview on CNN, and a trip to New York City in March to accept a Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) award.

Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas ACLU, said Phillips is deserving of the honor. “He takes the words of the Pledge of Allegiance seriously, and he takes what he says seriously,” she said. “He did not feel that the promise of liberty and justice for all was a reality for gay people, racial minorities and others in this society.”

Hating their neighbors

According to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the United States saw a 244 percent increase in the number of “Patriot Groups” in 2009. Defined by the SPLC as “militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose ‘one-world government' on liberty-loving Americans,” Arkansas is home to six such groups. In addition, there are 24 “active hate groups” in the state, including KKK, Neo-Nazi, Neo-Confederate, Racist Skinhead, Black Separatist and “general hate” organizations. For a list of each group and to find out where they're located, go to http://tinyurl.com/splcreport.

No DH then

No sport induces nostalgia the way baseball does. The Travelers' first home game of the season started us thinking about minor-league baseball in general, and the really old days, when just about every town of any size had a professional baseball team, and the others had semipro teams. We decided to compare 2010 with 1910. This year, 160 teams — more than we expected, really — are playing in 14 minor leagues, not counting Mexican and Japanese leagues. Ah, but 100 years ago, roughly 330 teams were playing in 55 leagues. (Major-league baseball has gone the other way, of course. There were only 16 major-league teams in 1910, compared with 30 today.)

But 1910 was not a good year for Little Rock baseball, we discovered. The team now known as the Arkansas Travelers, a member of the Texas League, was called the Little Rock Travelers in 1901, when it was a founding member of the old Southern Association and played against teams like the Atlanta Crackers, the Birmingham Barons, the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Memphis Turtles. For some reason, unexplained by our reference sources, Little Rock had no team in 1910 through 1914. The Travelers came back in 1915, and except for a couple of seasons — one after the Southern Association collapsed in 1961 — they've been taking the field ever since.


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