Fitting that it be Easter Sunday, a day signaling 'the best is yet to come', a day symbolizing redemption itself, that I reflect on a stain on the game I love. "God forgive us", is the comment and observation my baseball friend, John Pierce, uses as he reflects on it. John is Executive Editor of 'Baptists Today', an ordained moderate Baptist pastor from Macon, and a Braves season ticket holder.
He and I are referring to what African American and Latin baseball players went through during the early years after the color barrier was broken by Jackie Robinson. I have heard stories all my life about it, especially from my friend, the great major league manager, Jack McKeon, an 83-year pioneer of advocating for, working with, and respecting players of color. So many of us have read about and seen copies of death threat letters sent to Hank Aaron as he approached Ruth's home run record.
McKeon talks of his minor league black players having to remain on the bus as his teams had meals in all-white restaurants, of them having to sleep on the bus when confronted with all-white motels. Related, I am remained of Wilt Browning's wonderfully poignant story of spending time alone with Hank Aaron on the team bus after Hank's dear friend, Martin Luther King, was killed. It was normal for black players in the early days to endure racial slurs and indignations of all types. Related, black fans sat in a segregated section of the minor league stadium in my hometown,
Above is a photographic illustration of the point. It is a picture of my friend Ike Futch, on the left, with early African American New York Yankee Roy White. They both had played for my hometown Greensboro Yankees two years early. They are pictured above in 1964 in their Columbus (Ga.) Confederate Yankees (their nickname, if you can believe it) uniforms. Columbus was a Yankees Class AA farm team in the Southern League. The black players had to endure wearing confederate flags on their uniform shirt sleeves, as you can see in the picture.
I look forward to the release of the movie "42" on April 12, the story of the great Jackie Robinson. It is amazing to reflect on the extent to which society can be on the wrong side of history. I'm with Rev. Pierce....."God Forgive Us."