Monday, February 27, 2006

Baseball, The Babe and Race

My Grandfather (Arthur 'Soldier Boy Grip' Taylor) was an avid baseball fan...In his younger days he was also an exceptional baseball player...My grandfather was a defensive specialist who played left field, but who also played every position in the infield abundantly well...He possessed large hands with long fingers and strong wrists...He could hit for average as well as power on occasion...During World War 2 while stationed in Georgia, my grandfather played for an all African American baseball team known as the Black Crackers of northern Georgia...They mostly played other Black baseball teams from Georgia and other southern states including Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina...I am not sure if they were also the legendary Black baseball team known as the Atlanta Black Crackers...Ironically both teams had similar histories being that both teams weren't officially part of the historical Negro Leagues as we know them today...On occasion these all Black teams would play all-White teams composed of army soldiers from the army base that my grandfather was also stationed at...Throughout my grandfather's tenure as a soldier the army would put together all-Black teams and all-White teams to play against each other...My grandfather said that the Black teams would win way more than their share of these games leaving the White ball players frustrated and disgusted...One of these soldier ballplayers, E.B. Blackwell, was an exceptional White Major League baseball pitcher who had a stellar career playng with such teams as the New York Yankees and Cincinnatti Reds respectively. He suggested that my grandfather try out for the major leagues being that the Brooklyn Dodgers just signed Jackie Robinson (who also was a U.S. army officer) to play in the all-White major leagues...E.B. thought that my grandfather was skilled and talented enough to make an impact on any team for the better...A scout for the Negro Leagues' Kansas City Monarchs (Jackie Robinson's old team) wholeheartedly agreed with Blackwell's judgement and he offered my grandfather a tryout with the Monarchs as soon as the war was over...Unfortunately my grandfather was 100% disabled from his service so his dreams of playing baseball for a living died on the battlefield, but not his passion for the game...My grandfather followed baseball religiously for the rest of his life and was a true fan of Negro League baseball in particular his eventual hometown team, the Memphis Red Sox...My grandfather's favorite baseball player, from the Negro Leagues, was the legendary 2nd baseman Piper Davis, possibly one of the if not the greatest second baseman to ever play the game...He also got a chance to see the great Willie Mays when he was a youngster playing with the Birmingham Barons and Roy Campanella who eventually became a brilliant and phenomenal hitter and catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1950s.

No comments: