The Urbanist Musings of Pete Saunders

Welcome to the South Side of Chicago, JRW Style

The Jackie Robinson West Little League All-Stars in Chicago on August 13, 2014, just before the wildest ride of their lives.  Source:

The baseball team from the Jackie Robinson West Little League just completed a fantastic run in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, resulting in becoming the American champions before falling short against South Korea for the world championship.  The team garnered tons of national and international publicity while representing not only the city of Chicago, but the South Side neighborhoods they come from.

Their excellence on the ballfield made all Chicagoans proud.

But I wanted to take a moment to push back just a little on the narrative surrounding the team, largely due to perceptions about where they’re from.  This quote from yesterday’s New York Daily News, prior to the South Korea game, is emblematic:

Only it feels bigger because of these kids, 13 tough African-American kids out of such a tough part of Chicago who have already made themselves a story to remember in Little League baseball no matter what happens on Sunday afternoon against South Korea. 

I don’t want to make to much of a fuss on this, but it seems there’s been a subtle undercurrent of the JRW team succeeding against all odds because they come from a troubled community. I must admit that I don’t know any of the young ballplayers at all, nor do I know their families, and I have no idea where any of them live. But JRW has been around for a long time, and I do know generally the area they come from.  There are challenges there, to be sure, but many might be surprised about the area they come from.

Welcome to one part of Chicago’s South Side.

Again, I’m assuming here, but I’m guessing that the players for JRW come largely from the Roseland, Washington Heights, West Pullman and Morgan Park communities on the city’s Far South Side.  That’s where many have come from before, including kids I knew through friends and my church.  The communities are outlined (masterfully, I must say, in glorious Microsoft Paint) in yellow:

Roseland (#49 on the map), West Pullman (#53), Washington Heights (#73) and Morgan Park (#75), form much of the heart of Chicago’s black working class and middle class South Side.  Together, they have about 125,000 people, of whom more than 90 percent are African-American, with household incomes ranging from $40,000 to $60,000, a little off the median household income of the region ($71,000 in 2012) but typical of the median value for Chicago overall ($47,000).  Home values ranging from $140,000 to $190,000.  Here is where you will find many black teachers, police officers and firefighters, health care professionals and other working and middle class workers.  They live in pretty close proximity to more distressed parts of the city (particularly on the eastern edges of the area above), but for the most part where they live looks like this:

Or like this:

The main commercial corridor cutting through the communities is 95th Street, which admittedly has seen better days.  Crime here is not as low as it is in the tonier parts of the city, but it’s not as high as it is in the more troubled areas.  It’s an area where you can find great ribs for takeout on practically any corner, but quality sit-down restaurants are few.  There aren’t many local entertainment options for adults, but there are a decent number of stores where you can get what you need.  The communities have taken a hit over the last 20 years with the loss of the manufacturing jobs that supported many of the homes here, but people have adapted and continue to work hard to make a great future for themselves and their children.

Just thought you might like to know.

4 Responses to “Welcome to the South Side of Chicago, JRW Style”

  1. Anonymous

    It's kind of like how every suburb of Pittsburgh is a \”humble, working-class suburb\” to the national media, even the rich ones up I-79 and I-279 north of the city.



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