Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Playing in Shadows: Negro Leagues in Texas

Play ball! Today's LIFE workshop attendees were in the cat-bird seat for a major triple header. First up to bat was Author Robert Fink who gave us a thorough history of the Negro Leagues. From weekend past-time to full-time touring job, many of baseball's finest swung for the fences without ever going pro. Not until the 1950's did the pros start hiring players away and the leagues one-by-one folded. Trivia time: of Texas' 13 players in the Hall of Fame, how many are African American? Answer later in the blog, so you'll have to keep reading.

Next to step up to the plate was Gary Crawford, operator of Gary specializes in following up on our remaining Negro League players and is working towards getting these major contributors to American history recognized by the MLB and the White House.

And just to make sure today's workshop was a grand slam, we were joined by Johnny "Lefty" Washington of the Houston Eagles . Lefty regaled us with many tales, including the time he hit Willie Mays with a ball in the ribs, the reason behind Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe's other nickname, and stories of serving with the US Marines in Korea. Listening to Lefty speak, we were filled with nostalgia for the way the game used to be played, before rigid rules and steroids. As Lefty said about today's players, "they're larger, but not better." It was an honor and privilege to listen to an American patriot and living legend.

The answer to the trivia question above is 9. Below are links to books on the Negro Leagues and Gary Crawford's website. I think that just about covers all the bases. For more information on the history of African Americans to baseball, check out the Library's exhibit "Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience". We have events going on from July 14 - August 27.

Featured book "Playing in Shadows":

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