Stan Musial and the Civil Rights Movement


img_2902.jpgDuring a recent visit to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi, I found two baseball references. The first was to Jackie Robinson, as one might expect. An exhibit outlining the timeline of civil rights events noted that against the backdrop of segregation and the Cold War, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, “enduring racial tension in the clubhouse and jeers from fans.”

The other reference was on a display about speakers and performers refusing to go to segregated events in Mississippi. One such speaker: Stan Musial. Naturally, I needed to learn more.

img_2909.jpgOn February 26, 1963, after his retirement from baseball, Musial was appointed the director of President’s Committee on Physical Fitness by President Lyndon B. Johnson. A year later, as part of his new duties, Musial was scheduled to speak at the Touchdown Club of Jackson, MS, on February 24, 1964. However, around the same time civil rights groups, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had been writing to artists asking them to cancel Mississippi performances scheduled for segregated audiences. In 1964, SNCC’s Chairman at the time (and current U.S. Congressman), John Lewis, asked Musial not to make his scheduled appearance at the all-white Touchdown Club’s Hall of Fame dinner. Musial subsequently canceled the appearance, though made no mention of SNCC or Lewis’ request when he contacted the club.

~ baseballrebecca

SNCC Musial

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The Baseball Career of Charley Pride


 

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Charley Pride performing in 1981 (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

“When I saw Jackie Robinson go to the big leagues, I knew that was my way of getting out of the cotton fields.” ~ Charley Pride

 

Charley Pride’s dream was to play Major League Baseball. Instead, he ended up a Grammy-winning musician. He’s never been too far away from baseball, though.

Pride was born on March 18, 1938, in Sledge, Mississippi. After he was discovered pitching for a sandlot team against the Memphis Red Sox, Pride signed with Memphis and played for them in 1952. He then signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees and was assigned to the Boise Yankees of the Class C Pioneer League in 1953. An injury that year sent to the Class D Fond du Lac Panthers of the Wisconsin State League. He also played for the Negro Leagues’ Louisville Clippers, who reportedly traded him and another player to the Birmingham Black Barons for money for a team bus.

Pride played for Birmingham again in 1954, and, according to Baseball-Reference.com, played for the Class C Nogales Yaquis in Nogales, Mexico, in 1955. He returned to the Memphis Red Sox in 1956, where he won 14 games as a pitcher and earned a spot on the Negro American League All-Star Team.

Pride spent the next two years in the Army. He completed basic training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and he was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. In Colorado he was assigned to quartermaster duty and also played on the fort’s baseball team.

When his Army service ended, Pride wanted to find a way to be released from his contract with the Memphis Red Sox and remain in Colorado; but as he notes in his autobiography, “Curt Flood had not yet challenged [the system of being “owned” by a team for life] with his free-agency lawsuit and therefore the players had little leverage in dealing with the owners.” Thus, Pride returned to Memphis for the 1958 season. Despite being selected for the East-West All-Star Game that season, he was not able to negotiate a raise for the next season. So, he chose to sit out the 1959 season.

In early 1960, Pride responded to an ad in the Sporting News inviting players to try out for the Missoula Timberjacks of the Class C Pioneer League in Missoula, Montana. Unfortunately, he was released after 3 starts. It was then that he found out about the Montana State League, which was comprised of semi-pro and amateur teams sponsored by smelting companies. He got a job with the American Smelting & Refining Company in Helena, Montana. The company paid him $100 a week and put him on the company baseball team, the East Helena Smelterites. The Smelterites won the league championship that year.

Pride clipped newspaper stories of his work in the Montana State League and sent them to baseball teams hoping to get a spring tryout in 1961. Though teams like the Cubs turned him down, the California Angels told him if he could get to the spring training location in Palm Springs, California, by March 1, he could try out. After two weeks, they cut him, telling him he just didn’t have “a major league pitching arm.” So, Pride returned to his job in Montana and his position on the baseball team. The Smelterites won the league championship that year, too.

Pride planned on trying to get a tryout with the Mets the next season, but that winter he broke his ankle in an accident at work, making it impossible for him to try out during spring training. He was healed in time for the Smelterites season. The team won the league championship that year, as well.

It was during his time in the minors and in Montana that Pride also began to experience success in music. Whether it was playing on the team bus, or at local bars and music venues in Montana, he was beginning to get noticed. However, although his music career quickly took off, Pride continued his relationship with baseball.

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Jim Palmer in 1974 (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

In 1970, Pride was named an honorary member of the Milwaukee Brewers. He attended the Brewers’ spring training camp for three seasons after being invited by the team’s manager who was a country music fan. In 1974, he signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers so that he could play in some of their spring exhibition games – he even got a hit off of Jim Palmer of Baltimore Orioles fame.  In fact, Pride would become a fixture at Rangers’ games, having settled with his family in Dallas, Texas. In 2010, became a part-owner of the Rangers with Nolan Ryan and other partners.

In 2008, Pride and other living former Negro League players, including his brother Mack Pride, were “drafted” by each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams in a recognition of the achievements of the Negro Leagues; Pride was selected by the Texas Rangers. In 2013, Pride was presented the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

If you haven’t checked out the documentary, Charley Pride: I’m Just Me, on PBS, you can watch it now on their American Masters website!

~ baseballrebecca

 

Baseball Exhibits in 2019


1547480147808It seems like there is always an interesting baseball exhibit at some non-baseball museum or library. Unfortunately, I often miss them. This year, however, I vow to at least get to the ones in Washington, DC. Here are the ones I’ve found so far:

Also on display this year are a few baseball-related exhibits. Through March 10 you can see the exhibit “A Whole Different Ball Game: Playing Through 60 Years of Sports Video Games,” at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY.  Currently, the Hershey Story Museum in Hershey, PA, has an exhibit on Hershey operations in Cuba, which includes photos and artifacts from the Hershey Sport Club baseball team and the baseball diamond built for company employees in Cuba.

In addition, two baseball-related museums are set to open this year: the Jackie Robinson Museum is scheduled to open in December in New York, and the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum also expects to open in Milwaukee, WI, this year.

And you may as well mark your calendars now for “Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and the Big Leagues,” which will open at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, in 2020.

~ baseballrebecca

 

 

Martin Luther King, Jr., on Jackie Robinson and Others


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Jackie Robinson and his son at the March on Washington in 1963 (photo courtesy of the National Archives)

For Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I thought I’d post one of the many King quotes that used Jackie Robinson as an example. On September 23, 1959, in Jackson, Mississippi, King spoke to the Southern Christian Ministers Conference of Mississippi about the accomplishments of African Americans and the important contributions people can make to society, even when faced with oppression:

“… we too can make creative contributions, even though the door of freedom is not fully opened. We need not wait until oppression ceases before we seek to make creative contribution to our nation’s life. We must seek to rise above the crippling restrictions of circumstance. Already we have a host of Negroes whose inspiring achievements have proven that human nature cannot be catalogued, and that we need not postpone the moment of our creativity until the day of full emancipation. … There was a star in the athletic sky; then came Joe Louis with his educated fist, Jessie Owens with his fleet and dashing feet, and Jackie Robinson with his calm spirit and powerful bat. There are many others.”

~ baseballrebecca

 

 

 

 

George H.W. Bush and Baseball


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George H.W. Bush played baseball while at the Phillips Academy in Andover,
Massachusetts

Much has been said this past week about President George H.W. Bush and his love of baseball. Several organizations, including Little League Baseball, paid their respects with fitting tributes. Here is a run down of just a few of his baseball-related honors and accomplishments:

 

  • 1946-48 – Played baseball at Yale University.
  • 1984 – While Vice President, participated in an old-timers game with the Denver Bears at Mile High Stadium.
  • 1989 – Using his own glove, threw out the first pitch at the Orioles season opener on April 3.
  • 1989 – Threw out the first pitch in Anaheim on April 25.
  • 1989 – Little League Baseball renamed the “Little League Parents of the Year Award” the “George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year Award.”
  • 1989 – Celebrated Little League’s 50th anniversary with a reception on the South Lawn of the White House; later, later traveled with the Little League President to Warsaw, Poland, to deliver the first Little League charter to leagues that were established after the fall of the Soviet Union.
  • 1989 – Threw out the first pitch in Baltimore on June 28
  • 1989 – Attended baseball game in Baltimore on August 4.
  • 1990 – Threw out the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays game on April 10; became the first President to attend a baseball game in Canada.
  • 1990 – Threw out the first pitch in Baltimore on July 16.
  • 1991 – Threw out the first pitch at the Rangers game on April 8.
  • 1991 – Attended an Orioles game with Queen Elizabeth on May 15.
  • 1991 – Attended Frederick Keys game at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, MD, on June 8.
  • 1992 – Threw out the first pitch for the opening of Camden Yards on April 6.
  • 1991 – Awarded the “President’s Award” to Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio and attended the 1991 All-Star Game with them.
  • 1995 – Attended Ted Williams’ spring event at the Hitters Hall of Fame.
  • 2000 – Threw out the Opening Day first pitch for the Texas Rangers.
  • 2005 – Met Red Sox Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr at his home in Kennebunkport.
  • 2007 – At the Little League International Congress, President and Mrs. Bush were honored as Little League’s “First Family.
  • 2015 – Threw out the first pitch of the American League Championship Series in Houston, TX.
  • 2014 – The National College Baseball Hall of Fame facility in Lubbock, TX, was named the George H.W. Bush National College Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • 2017 – Threw the first pitch before the 5th game of the World Series in Houston, TX.

 

~ baseballrebecca

 

 

The Swampoodle Grounds


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Earlier this week I was reading through “This Day in All Teams History” at Nationalpastime.com, when I stumbled upon this entry for September 11, 1886:

“At Washington’s Swampoodle Grounds, backstop Connie Mack makes his major league debut when the Nationals, in a rare victory, edge the Philadelphia Quakers, 4-3. The journeyman catcher will post the most big league wins and losses as a manager, compiling a 3731-3948 (.486) record with the Pirates and A’s during his 53-year managerial career.”

Having lived and worked in the Washington, DC, area for years, I was surprised I’d never heard of the Swampoodle Grounds. After all, “Swampoodle” is not a name one easily forgets (note: see my disclaimer below). So, I did my research.

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Swampoodle (See larger map of the area below)

Swampoodle was a neighborhood in northeast Washington, DC (now part of the so-called NoMa District). The term is actually a contraction of the words “swamp” and “puddle” and is a reference to the fact that the nearby Tiber Creek often overflowed in that area. The neighborhood was originally settled by Irish immigrants escaping the potato famine in the mid-1800s.

Located in the neighborhood was the Swampoodle Grounds, more officially known as Capitol Park. Home of the Washington Nationals baseball team from 1886 to 1889, the ballpark was bounded by Delaware Avenue (first base side), G Street (right field), North Capitol Street (left field), and F Street (third base side). Today, Union Station stands near the site of the former ballpark. The name will once again be used for a new playground and dog park to be located 3rd and L Streets.

~ baseballrebecca

 

Postscript: Naturally, as I did my research, I also discovered that the Swampoodle Grounds was featured in the blog Archived Innings earlier this year and I had, in fact, read the post and liked it. Obviously, I have a terrible memory. (Next year at this time I probably rediscover the Swampoodle Grounds all over again!)

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Swampoodle area of Washington, DC, in 1893 (image courtesy of Wikipedia)