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The Summer of ‘54: Celebrating Chicago baseball history to benefit Lost Boyz, Inc.

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You can join us at Nisei Lounge to support the cause tonight

Ernie Banks
Photo by Louis Requena/MLB via Getty Images

The summer of 1954 was a historic time for baseball in the city of Chicago because it was the first full baseball season where both the Cubs and the White Sox rostered Black baseball players. The White Sox had signed Minnie Miñoso in 1951 and Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, made his debut in September 1953. To honor this legacy, local Chicago beermaker Jay Westbrook teamed up with award winning baseball writer Shakeia Taylor and Haymarket Brewing to create a craft beer for a cause. That beer is the Summer of ‘54 IPA, and it debuted at a tap party that raised money for the Lost Boyz, Inc. at Haymarket during the All Star Game.

If you are a Cuppa Cubbie Blue listener, you’re probably already familiar with the Summer of ‘54 collaboration and the Lost Boyz. Taylor and Westbrook were kind enough to join me for episode 112 to talk about the project (Content warning: we talked about Trevor Bauer in this episode. We were careful to avoid the most graphic details of the allegations against him, but if you are looking to avoid that conversation just skip minutes 13:10 to 30:35):

The Lost Boyz were founded in 2009 by LaVonte Stewart to make sure kiddos in all of Chicago’s neighborhoods had access to the many benefits of baseball:

The organization was founded in 2009 by LaVonte Stewart, an area resident, who felt a call to action after witnessing antisocial behavioral patterns increasingly impact local youth. Having experienced firsthand the profound impact baseball can have on a child’s development, LaVonte rallied the community around organized youth baseball. In 2014, Lost Boyz observed this persistent pattern affecting young ladies as well. There we extended our service to include girls. Our programs include both girls and boys.‍ Our mission is to provide sports-based youth development to help boys and girls in Chicago’s under-resourced neighborhoods develop confidence, resilience, and life skills.‍

Lost Boyz shows Chicago’s kids on the South Shore the power of teamwork and sports. Stewart has worked hard to provide access and opportunities for hundreds of kiddos. A few of those young ballplayers were able to join us for the tapping party on Monday night, and trust me they were the life of the party.

Young ballplayers from the Lost Boyz at the Haymarket tapping party
Sara Sanchez

The beer itself is an IPA crafted with hints of mango and ruby red grapefruit. You may not think an IPA is the most summer forward beer, but it turns out if you add mango and grapefruit to it it’s a very summer appropriate beer. It’s also quite tasty. The mango is a nod to Miñoso’s Cuban roots while the ruby red grapefruit is the state fruit of Texas and represents Banks’ roots.

Lost Boyz Founder LaVonte Stewart with the bleacher bums
Sara Sanchez

The beer is outstanding, but I was even more impressed with the crowd that showed up to support this great cause. It was something to see the most famous members of the White Sox Section 108 hanging out with some of my favorite bleacher bums. There were also a lot of members of the blogging and Chicago media community in attendance, including Leila Rahimi who interviewed Taylor about the event on 670 The Score with Dan Bernstein earlier this week.

If you’re feeling a bit of FOMO because you weren’t with us on Monday I can’t say that I blame you. However, you are in luck because there is a North Side event tonight at 6 p.m. at Nisei Lounge. You can get a ticket for $5, and there are growlers available for purchase before you check out. Join us if you can, or donate to Lost Boyz directly if you are able and can’t be there in person.

There are a lot of things that divide us in 2021, but Cubs fans and White Sox fans can surely agree on great beer, good company and making sure all kids have access to baseball in the spirit of the great Summer of ‘54.