“There’s no color in life when you have love.”
Those words are not from a Hallmark card, nor are they from a child’s cartoon. Those words were said by Detroit Tigers legend Willie Horton at a press conference on Jan. 29 at Tiger Town.
As Horton reminisced about his early years as a baseball player with tears forming in his eyes, it was difficult holding back my own tears.
As I heard about the way he had to walk from downtown over to Tiger Town because he could not ride in a “white” taxi I marveled at the fact that I had just taken a ride down to Tiger Town for the Press Conference with a colleague who was not my same skin color.
I glanced around the room and realized that just sixty years ago standing in a room full of blacks, whites and Hispanics who were gathered for a press conference for a celebration would have been non-existent.
Here we are on the brink of Spring Training and at times if ESPN or Major League Baseball do not remind us about those who played first in the Negro League, we often forget and skip past the taunts or threats they received when they first stepped onto a Major diamond.
While dark times in our country’s history may be overlooked, we must not forget that there were those who endured experiences that many of us can only faintly imagine.
We must remember that in 1945 Jackie Robinson was given an opportunity to try out for the Boston Red Sox and had to tolerate racial slurs during that tryout. Then in 1947 he became the first black player to grace the Majors as a Brooklyn Dodger.
We must remember Leroy “Satchel” Paige’s words of, “They said I was the greatest pitcher they ever saw. . .I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t give me no justice.” When he finally joined the Majors in 1948 he managed to not commit a single error in 179 Major League games.
We must especially remember players like Josh Gibson who only displayed his talent in front of crowds at Negro League games. Gibson was nicknamed the “The Brown Bambino of Baseball.”
According to the Negro League Baseball Players Association, Gibson led the Negro National League in homeruns for 10 consecutive years and 75 home runs in 1931.
Sadly, he passed away just months before Robinson broke the color bar in baseball. Yet, the times that Gibson spoke out about the injustice he was faced with are rare to non-existent.
Now as many of us countdown the days until pitchers and catchers report, we need to remember those who were finally allowed to join the Majors and those who have come and gone without ever being able to fully obtain their dreams.
The Southern – February 4, 2010