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Peter Valenti

baseball player and executive, was born Henry Aaron in the Down the Bay section of Mobile, Alabama, the third of eight children of Herbert Aaron and Estella (maiden name unknown). His parents had left the Selma, Alabama, area during the Depression for greater opportunity in Mobile's shipbuilding industries. In 1942, as the family grew and Down the Bay became more crowded with wartime job seekers, the Aarons moved to a rural suburb of Toulminville. Working as a boilermaker's apprentice, Herbert Aaron suffered through the frequent layoffs that plagued black shipyard workers before wartime demand dictated full employment. Ever resourceful, Herbert Aaron bought two lots in Toulminville, hired carpenters to frame out the roof and walls of a house, and set about with his family to find materials to finish the property. The Aarons continued to live in the house even as Henry achieved superstardom.

Making balls from such scavenged ...


Paul Finkelman

baseball player, baseball executive, civil rights advocate, and businessman. Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Herbert and Estella Aaron. He was a member of the second generation of black baseball players to enter the major leagues following Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color line in professional baseball in 1947. Aaron began playing for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954; at about the same time Willie Mays joined the New York Giants and Ernie Banks joined the Chicago Cubs. They were among the last black players who began their careers in the Negro Leagues. In 1974 Aaron broke Babe Ruth's lifetime home run record of 714. When he retired from baseball in 1976 after twenty three seasons Aaron held the career records for most home runs 755 most runs batted in 2 297 most total bases ...


Brian Turner

the first African American to integrate baseball, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the second son of Nelson Askin and Sarah Lloyd. In 1844 Nelson Askin moved to Florence, a mill village in Northampton, Massachusetts, to open a livery. Across the road was the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, a utopian community whose ideals and practices ensured an integrated membership. Although the association disbanded in 1846, many members stayed in Florence, including Sojourner Truth and David Ruggles; their influence marked the village as a “sanctuary” for all, regardless of religion, class, or race. But in 1849, when Sarah Askin arrived in Florence with her six children, Nelson had already sold off parts of his property, and shortly thereafter the livery was seized by creditors. By 1850 Nelson had abandoned Sarah From then on Sarah took in washing to support her children who at the earliest ...


Ronald Eniclerico

baseball player. One of the most successful major league baseball players never to play on a championship team, Banks earned a reputation during his nineteen-year tenure with the Chicago Cubs as one of the most solid, dependable players in the game. He was known for his affable, optimistic attitude, epitomized by his well-known catchphrase: “It's a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let's play two!”

Banks was born in Dallas, Texas, to a poor family. In his autobiography, Mr. Cub (1971), he relates the story that, when he was a child, a boy from his neighborhood stole a chicken that had been intended for the Banks family's Thanksgiving dinner. Banks's mother had killed the chicken herself, and Banks had to wrestle the boy for the bird in a nearby basement apartment to reclaim the family's dinner.

Banks began playing softball in high school where he first played shortstop ...


Caryn E. Neumann and Jill Dupont

[This entry includes two subentries, on the Negro Leagues and on integrated professional baseball.]


Question: “Just tell me, why do you think there is still that much prejudice in baseball today?”

Answer: “No, I don't believe it's prejudice. I truly believe that they may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager.”

Guess the year those words were uttered. 1930?1950?1970?1987. The further irony is that the context was a late-night talk show commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson shattered the color barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB). On top of that, the interviewee was Al Campanis who at the time was vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers Campanis was interviewed because he had played and roomed with Robinson and on many occasions actually defended him against racial onslaughts Campanis was fired the next day The event was a stunning reminder of the perhaps more subtle ...


James A. Riley

baseball player and manager, was born James Thomas Bell in Starkville, Mississippi, the son of Jonas Bell, a farmer whose father was an American Indian, and Mary Nichols. James had six siblings, two sisters and four brothers, and said that his mother taught him to be an honest, clean-living man who cared about other people.

He was reared in the Oktoc community near Starkville and began playing pickup games on the local sandlots while attending the local school through the eighth grade. There was neither a high school nor gainful employment in his hometown, so in 1920 Bell moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to live with his older brothers and attend high school, completing two years before ending his formal education. Soon after arriving in St. Louis, he met Clarabelle Thompson, and they were married in September 1920 The marriage lasted seventy years but was childless ...


Rob Fink

Hall of Fame Negro League baseball player. The son of a farmer from Starkville, Mississippi, and the grandson of a Native American, James “Cool Papa” Bell was considered the fastest man ever to play baseball. The legends concerning his quickness prove almost Herculean in the retelling, with numerous accounts of Bell scoring in games from first base on bunts by his teammates. Bell also stole 175 bases over 200 games.

Bell began his baseball career in his hometown of Starkville, competing in local pick-up games with older youths and adults on the local sandlots. As Bell entered his teens, he found himself forced to move to Saint Louis to live with a brother because in 1920 Starkville possessed neither an African American high school nor any job opportunities for young black men.

In Saint Louis Bell attended high school for two years while working in a packing plant He also ...


John Bloom

baseball player, was born in Riverside, California, the first of four children born to Patricia and Bobby Bonds, a baseball player. In 1968 Bobby Bonds was called up to join the San Francisco Giants. The Bonds family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area city of San Carlos. By the time Bonds was five, he was spending his leisure time in the Giants' Candlestick Park locker room with some of the greatest baseball players of the time, among them Willie Mays, who adopted him as his godson.

Though an outstanding hitter and base stealer, Bobby Bonds was traded frequently in his career and had a tense relationship with the press Young Bonds was deeply affected by his father s treatment at the hands of apparently unsympathetic sports reporters something that would greatly shape his own relationship with reporters in years to come Although his father played for ...


Glenn Allen Knoblock

baseball player, was born Louis Clark Brock in El Dorado, Arkansas, the son of a sharecropping family. When Lou was a child, his mother relocated to Collinston, Louisiana, where he grew up on a cotton plantation. A quiet and shy youth, Brock attended Union High School in Mer Rouge. Upon graduation he accepted an academic scholarship to Southern University in Baton Rouge. He chose to major in math for one simple reason: he had seen his family “duped” by plantation owners year in and year out, leaving the family deep in debt (Halberstam, 151). Despite hard work Brock lost his academic scholarship and turned to sports to stay in school, making the baseball team as a walk-on. He earned an athletic scholarship on the spot when he was given five practice swings in a batting session, three of which went for home runs.

Brock s career in baseball started slowly ...


Robert M. O'Brien

baseball catcher who helped break baseball's color line. Campanella was also known for his courage and determination off the field as an automobile accident in 1958 left him a quadriplegic and permanently in a wheelchair.

Campanella was born and raised in Philadelphia. His father, John Campanella, was a first-generation American of Italian descent, and his mother Ida Mercer Campanella was African American. As a child he developed an interest in sports, with baseball becoming his first love. He took up the position of catcher as nobody else in the integrated neighborhood wanted to play baseball's most grinding position.

At the age of fifteen Campanella started playing Negro League ball for the Washington Elite Giants and he continued with the team when it moved to Baltimore the next season With his parents permission he quit school at age sixteen to pursue professional baseball He proved to be a workhorse often ...


Rob Ruck

baseball player, was born Roberto Walker Clemente in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the son of Melchor Clemente, a sugar mill foreman, and Luisa Walker. Little is known of Roberto's early life. When he was fourteen, he played in exhibition games in Puerto Rico alongside Negro League and major league players. In 1952, during his first season with the Santurce Cangrejeros, Clemente impressed the Brooklyn Dodgers’ scout Al Campanis. On his high school graduation in 1954 he signed with the Dodgers for $10,000 and was sent to their highest-level farm team, the Montreal Royals.

The Dodgers took a risk by giving Clemente a year s seasoning at Montreal because of baseball s rules at the time which stated that players receiving bonuses above $4 000 had to be kept on a team s major league roster during their initial summers or else become eligible for selection by other teams ...


Beatriz Rivera-Barnes

Major League Baseball player. Roberto Clemente Walker was born in Barrio San Anton in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the youngest of the seven children of Melchor Clemente and Luisa Walker. His father was a foreman on a sugarcane plantation, and his mother ran a grocery store for plantation workers. As an adolescent, Clemente excelled in sports such as track and field and played amateur baseball with the Juncos double-A club and with the Santurce Crabbers in what was known as the Puerto Rican Winter League. Because he was fast, had a great throwing arm, and was also a strong hitter, scouts from big league teams watched him play in high school.

When Clemente graduated in 1953 the scout Al Campanis signed him with the Brooklyn Dodgers with a $10 000 bonus The following season however the Dodgers assigned Clemente to play for their top affiliate in the minors ...


Claude Johnson

was born George Daniel Crowe in Whiteland, Indiana, the fifth child of Morten and Tom Ann Crow. He was the fifth of ten children—eight boys and two girls. Crowe’s father, Morten, was a lifelong farm laborer for hire. His mother, Tom Ann, was a homemaker. Both parents were from Adair County, Kentucky. A left-hander who stood six feet four inches tall with a brawny build and exceptional athletic ability, Crowe earned the nickname “Big George.”

He attended Franklin High School in Franklin, Indiana, where in 1938 as a junior he became the school’s first ever African American varsity basketball player. In 1939 he led the Grizzly Cubs to the final game of the Indiana State High School Athletic Association Basketball Championship and was named to the All State team as a center In addition as the leading vote getter for Indiana s newly instituted high school basketball All Star ...


Gerald Early

Curt Flood was the youngest of six children born to Herman and Laura Flood. The family moved From Houston, Texas, to Oakland, California in 1940. His success as a high school athlete led the Cincinnati Reds to sign him in 1956. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1957.

The Cardinals flourished in the mid-1960s, playing in the World's Series in 1964, 1967, and 1968. In October 1969 after a disappointing season for the Cardinals Flood who had been the starting centerfielder for the team for twelve years was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies Flood shocked and disappointed by the trade refused to accept it He decided to sue team owners over the reserve clause in contracts which prevented Flood from being able to negotiate with any team he wished who might desire his services The Players Association the ballplayers ...


Gerald Early

baseball player and artist, was born Curtis Charles Flood in Houston, Texas, the youngest of six children of Herman and Laura Flood. In 1940 the family moved to Oakland, California. Flood's older brother, Carl, who had trouble with the law from childhood, slipped into a life of crime. Flood, however, began playing midget-league baseball at the age of nine. George Powles coached the team and produced, besides Curt Flood, such players as Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Joe Morgan, and Jesse Gonder. The other factor that kept Flood out of trouble was encountering Jim Chambers who encouraged his interest and development as an artist at Herbert Hoover High School in Oakland Flood played baseball throughout his teenage years and became a promising athlete However he was small weighing barely one hundred forty pounds and standing only five feet seven inches tall as a senior in ...


Gerald Early

baseball player, manager, and entrepreneur, was born Andrew Foster in Calvert, Texas, the fifth child of Sarah (maiden name unknown) and the Reverend Andrew Foster, presiding elder of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Calvert. Growing up in a post-Reconstruction world of strictly enforced racial segregation backed by white terrorist violence, Andrew attended the segregated school in Calvert. As a boy Andrew had a knack for baseball, the most popular sport in America at the time. His father, a devout churchman, tried to discourage him from playing, but young Andrew persisted and even organized a team while he was still in grade school. Indeed, Andrew was so drawn to the game that he quit school after the eighth grade to pursue baseball as a career.

Foster started pitching for the Waco Yellow Jackets, becoming a star pitcher by the time he was eighteen. By 1902 he had ...


Christopher Devine

baseball player, was born Pack Robert Gibson in Omaha, Nebraska, the last of the eight children of Pack Gibson, a carpenter, and Victoria Gibson, later Victoria Borden, a laundry worker. Upon reaching adulthood, Gibson legally changed his name to Robert Gibson. Pack Gibson died of tuberculosis five months before Bob's birth, leaving fifteen-year-old Leroy (known as “Josh”) to run the family with his mother. The Gibsons lived in Omaha's North Side, where, surrounded almost exclusively by poor African Americans, Bob first recognized segregation.

Bob, who was born with severe asthma that would dissipate with age, had many health problems as a child, including rickets and a case of pneumonia that nearly killed him at age three. According to family lore, young Bob pulled through after Josh promised him a baseball glove if he survived. Josh taught his brother to play baseball and in 1947 after ...


Paul A. Frisch

major league baseball player, was born George Kenneth Griffey Jr. in Donora, Pennsylvania, the oldest of two sons of George Kenneth Griffey Sr., a major league baseball player, and Alberta (“Birdie”) Littleton Griffey. Junior, as he was popularly known, often visited the Cincinnati Reds' River Front Stadium with his father, an outfielder during the halcyon days of the “Big Red Machine” (1970–1976).

At Cincinnati's Moeller High School, the left-handed throwing and batting Griffey excelled at baseball as an outfielder and football as a running back, receiving the offer of a football scholarship from the University of Oklahoma. On 2 June 1987 the Seattle Mariners selected the seventeen-year-old Griffey as the first overall pick in the free agency draft, signing him for a $160,000 bonus. Playing the 1987 season for the Mariners Bellingham Washington team in the short season Northwest League he batted 313 hit fourteen home ...


Bailey Thomas Player

baseball player, was born in Donora, Pennsylvania. His father, Joseph “Buddy” Griffey, was a decent athlete in his own time, playing third base on the Donora All-Star team and attending Kentucky on a football scholarship. Unfortunately, he was not as dedicated to being a father. He left Griffey and his mother when Griffey was two, and Griffey did not see him again until he was nine and then not again until he was seventeen.

Ken Griffey, a left-handed right-fielder, was drafted twenty-ninth by the Cincinnati Reds in 1969 at the age of nineteen. After spending almost five years in the Reds' minor league system honing his skills, Griffey made his big league debut in August 1973 The timing for Griffey s arrival could not have been better since the team he joined would later come to be known as The Big Red Machine and win two World ...