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April Yoder

best known in the United States as the oldest of Major League Baseball’s Alou brothers, was born 12 May 1935 on a farm in Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic. The oldest of six children of José Rojas, a blacksmith and carpenter, and Virginia Alou, a homemaker, Felipe Rojas Alou attended high school in Santo Domingo. In 1954 he represented his country in the javelin and discus in the Central American and Caribbean Games held in Mexico. After beginning his studies in pre-med at the University of Santo Domingo, Alou returned to Mexico for the 1955 Pan-American Games, this time on the baseball team. His performance in Mexico helped the Dominican Republic win a gold medal and inspired many professional baseball teams in the United States to offer him contracts.

At first Alou rejected the offers to play in the United States because he wanted to continue his studies But after ...

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Ron Howell

first African American elected to political office in Brooklyn, New York, and a leader in the mid-twentieth century effort to integrate American tennis, was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, then part of the British West Indies. His mother was Lillian de Grasse Baker, whose family had successful retail businesses on the island; his father was the Reverend Alfred B. Baker, a Wesleyan Methodist minister.

Tragedy struck in 1900 when Lillian Baker died of consumption. Bertram, an only child, would find comfort in the care of his maternal grandmother, Eliza de Grasse. In 1905 Baker's father left Nevis, accepting an offer to become founding pastor of the Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church in Brooklyn. The Reverend Baker would later also found the Beulah Wesleyan Methodist Church in Manhattan.

In 1915 the Reverend Baker returned to Nevis to pick up his seventeen year old son Bertram who ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born Jane Kimberly Batten, in McRae, Georgia, the daughter of Ella Jean Batten. In 1976 her family moved to Rochester, New York, where she participated in basketball, track and field, and volleyball at the city’s East High School. Principally a long and triple jumper on the track and field team, Batten also competed in the 400-meter hurdles, posting times of 61.1 seconds in 1986 and 60.94 seconds in 1987. She graduated East High in 1987, ranked third in the nation in the triple jump.

Recruited by several colleges to compete in the triple jump, Batten selected Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee. For the Seminoles, she competed in the 100, 200, and 400 meters; 100- and 400-meter hurdles; long jump and triple jump; and the 4 × 100- and 4 × 400-meter relays. Indoors in 1988 Batten finished thirteenth in the triple jump at the National ...

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Dolph H. Grundman

basketball player and executive, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of a railroad brakeman. Little else is known about his parents. Baylor grew up in a poor section of the District of Columbia and played basketball at the all-black Spingarn High School, where he scored sixty-eight points in a single game to establish a new record for a D.C. high schooler. Although he was the first African American to make the all-metropolitan team, his poor grades discouraged college recruiters. Thus Baylor started his college career with a football scholarship at the tiny College of Idaho, which had only 450 students. Sam Vokes coached both football and basketball and decided that it made good sense to keep the talented Baylor off the football field Baylor proceeded to average thirty one points a game and made the NAIA All American team which recognizes the achievements of small school athletes After ...

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was born on 1 September 1939 in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic, to Hipólito Jacobo, a sugar mill worker, and Oliva Adriana Carty Schmunth, a midwife. Stories surrounding his birth presaged the ups and downs in Carty’s prestigious career as a major league player. Rumor had it that the newborn Carty weighed 13 pounds and had spent thirteen months in his mother’s womb, the long gestation allegedly the evil work of a woman who had cursed his mother that she would never give birth.

Carty grew up in the Guachupita neighborhood of Consuelo, sometimes listed as his “hometown” in biographical sketches. Consuelo was a sugar mill town founded largely by Anglo-Caribbean cane cutters from the Tortola islands. Carty’s grandfather, Gastón, had left his native San Martin for opportunities in the Consuelo mills and became part of the community known today in the Dominican Republic as cocolos. The cocolos ...

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CanadianFootball League player, coach, sports executive, and philanthropist, was born Michael Lutrell Clemons in Dunedin, Florida, to Anna O'Neal and Willy James Clemons. The diminutive Clemons earned his nickname in the CFL because, according to Bill O'Billovich, the Toronto Argonauts' head coach, he resembled a pinball when bouncing off of would-be tacklers. His parents never married; Anna raised Michael, while Willy stayed largely at the periphery of his son's life. Later, Anna married and gave birth to Kelli, while her new husband added two children of his own to the family.

Clemons grew up in the projects of a predominantly black working class community His family and neighbors struggled economically at one point Clemons an excellent student and math whiz even helped his mother s boyfriend run a numbers racket Still Clemons and his mother were devout attendees of the local Baptist church ...

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Byron Motley

baseball player-manager, was born Lorenzo Davis. The only child of John, a coal miner, and Georgia, a housewife, Lorenzo earned the nickname “Piper” after his hometown of Piper, Alabama. Although he would never make it to the major leagues, which did not accept blacks until 1947, his is one of the premier names in the annals of Negro League baseball history.

Gifted scholastically, Davis often claimed that he should have been valedictorian at all-black Fairfield Industrial High School but that administrators passed him over in favor of a pregnant student. The truth of that claim is unknown, however. The coal miner turned athlete did, however, earn a partial basketball scholarship to Alabama State University in Montgomery. Forced to quit after a year for financial reasons, he found employment in the Birmingham steel mills. In 1938 he married Laura Perry and had a son, Lorenzo, Jr. the ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born in Miami, Florida, the eldest son of Mattie Brown, a homemaker and part-time baker, and Floyd Dawson. Born to his mother when she was fifteen years old and an absent father who went to college and then the army, Dawson and his seven siblings were primarily raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Eunice Taylor.

Dawson became enamored of baseball early, using rocks and a mop handle to play as a young boy. When the city denied financial assistance for a Little League in a segregated part of Miami, his maternal uncles organized one for Dawson and his friends. As a nine year old sharing the field with older players, he received a nickname that would stay with him for his adult life—“The Hawk”—for his intense focus.

Dawson was a star athlete at Miami s Southwest High School but while playing safety ...

Article

Wayne Wilson

Olympic rower and administrator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Robert David DeFrantz, a social worker, YMCA administrator, and local school board member, and Anita Page, a speech pathologist and university professor. When DeFrantz was eighteen months old, her family moved to Indiana, living first in Bloomington and then Indianapolis.

DeFrantz was greatly influenced by her family's history of social and political activism. Her grandfather, Faburn Edward DeFrantz, was executive director of the Senate Avenue YMCA in Indianapolis from 1916 until 1952. Under his leadership, the Senate Avenue Y's “Monster Meetings” became an important forum over a span of several decades for the examination of issues affecting African Americans. They were public educational gatherings that brought to town such African American luminaries as W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, A. Philip Randolph, Jackie Robinson, Roy Wilkins and ...

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Winifred W. Thompson

Anita L. DeFrantz is one of the most influential people in sports in the early twenty-first century. She became involved in the Olympic field as a competitor when she won a bronze medal on the U.S. women’s eight-oared shell at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. She was the first woman to represent the United States on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1986 and, in 1997, she became the first woman, as well as the first African American, to be vice president of the IOC. DeFrantz has worked on the Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Atlanta Olympic Games as a member of the United States Olympic Executive Committee.

DeFrantz was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Robert and Anita P. DeFrantz Her father directed the Community Action against Poverty organization her mother taught and eventually became a professor of Education at the University of San Francisco DeFrantz s ...

Article

baseball player and manager, was born Clarence Edwin Gaston in San Antonio, Texas, to Sam Gaston, a truck driver, and Gertrude Corley, a waitress. Gaston's mother remarried during his childhood, and he was raised with five sisters. He excelled at baseball, football, and basketball at Holy Cross High in San Antonio and Solomon High School in Corpus Christi. Gaston earned the nickname “Cito” when one of his friends noted his similarity to an obscure Mexican wrestler of the same name.

Following his graduation from Solomon in 1961, Gaston worked as a garage attendant and city sanitation worker in San Antonio while playing for a semiprofessional team, the Cardona Welders. In 1963 a Milwaukee Braves scout aggressively pursued and signed Gaston after watching him play just one game in which he hit a homer and beat out an infield hit Used to the Jim Crow laws of ...

Article

National Negro League president and owner of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, was born in Marion, North Carolina, to a masonry contractor with the surname Greenlee (his mother's name is unknown). Little is known of his early life. After dropping out of college, Greenlee hopped a freight train north to Pittsburgh in 1916 and settled in the Hill District, a gathering point for immigrants of many nationalities. He operated a steam drill, drove a taxi, shined shoes, and worked as a fireman at Jones and Laughlin's Southside Steel Works before serving overseas in the army's 367th Regiment during World War I. Returning to Pittsburgh in 1919, he bootlegged liquor and entered the nightclub business.

Greenlee ran a poolroom then the Paramount Club a restaurant and cabaret then the Sunset Cafe before opening the Crawford Grill considered the Hill s classiest nightspot The club was the center for Greenlee s numbers game ...

Article

Luke Nichter

Negro National League commissioner, longtime Harlem community activist, and ordained Episcopalian minister was born in Richmond, Virginia, to John Wesley and Harriet Howard Johnson.

Although Johnson was known primarily for his role as the last president of the Negro National League (NNL), he actually had little baseball acumen. In fact his sport of choice was basketball, and as a student-athlete at Columbia University in the early 1920s, he was one of the best basketball players of his day.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in Anthropology from Columbia College, Johnson studied at Union Theological and General Theological seminaries in Manhattan. Then in 1923 he became an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church, beginning a career of service in Harlem that spanned seven decades. In 1928 he founded St. Martin's Parish in Harlem and by the late 1940s had overseen the congregation s ...

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Luke Nichter

dentist, politician, and Negro Baseball League officer, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. A member of a prominent Memphis family with four brothers who all played roles in baseball in that city and beyond, John B. Martin, a dentist, was a co-owner and a club officer of the Memphis Red Sox and the Chicago American Giants. He also served as the president of three different leagues: the Negro Southern League (NSL), the Negro American League (NAL), and the Negro Dixie League.

Together with his brother, B. B. Martin, also a dentist, John B. Martin took over the Memphis Red Sox in the late 1920s from funeral director Robert S. Lewis and built a ballpark they called Martin Stadium Martin also owned a hotel next to the park and operated the concession stand Beyond baseball Martin also served the community as a pharmacist dentist real estate ...

Article

Robert Janis

pro football player and team executive, was born Robert Cornelius Mitchell in Hot Springs Arkansas His extraordinary talent in sports was revealed during his time as a student at Langston High School He played basketball football and baseball and was a member of the school s track team He was so skilled in baseball that he was offered a contract by the St Louis Cardinals but he turned it down to pursue an education He was offered a number of scholarships from major universities and chose to attend the University of Illinois where he played football and was on the school s track team His success in track was overshadowed by his achievements in football He set a world record that lasted for 6 days with a time of 7 7 seconds in the 70 yard indoor low hurdles He ran the 100 yard dash in 9 7 ...

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James Fargo Balliett

professional basketball player, sports commentator, and businessman, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Growing up in a tough neighborhood in South Philadelphia, Monroe loved to play soccer and baseball; but by the age of fourteen, he had reached six feet three inches and began drawing the attention of high school basketball coaches. He struggled at first, especially with his coordination and timing, but soon adjusted to the center position. Playing long hours on outdoor asphalt playgrounds, he developed what were known as “shake and bake” moves, which involved using small hesitation movements followed by launching in the air to avoid being blocked by defenders. This earned Monroe the street nickname of “Thomas Edison as he continued to build a repertoire of flukey duke shots fakes and spins to keep opposing players off balance in the rough world of street ball All my style came from the ...

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Glenn Stout

baseball player, baseball executive, and advocate for alcohol abuse education, was born Donald Newcombe in Madison, New Jersey, one of four sons born to Sadie Sayers and Ronald Newcombe, a chauffeur. When Newcombe was five years old, Ronald Newcombe's employer moved to Union, New Jersey, and the family relocated to Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Newcombe's father introduced him to alcohol at age eight and Newcombe continued to drink into adulthood. As a boy, he played sandlot baseball and occasionally attended professional baseball games in Newark, New Jersey, with his father and brothers, observing the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League and International League Newark Bears, a farm club of the New York Yankees. An older brother briefly managed a semiprofessional baseball team and occasionally allowed his younger brother to practice with the team. Newcombe's older next door neighbor, John Grier took an interest in the young man and ...

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Adam W. Green

football player and executive, was the third of five children born to Ozzie “Fats” Newsome Sr., a restaurant operator, and Ethel Mae Newsome, a domestic worker, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Following a Hall of Fame playing career with the Cleveland Browns, Newsome later became the National Football League's first African American general manager.

Newsome came of age during the civil rights era in the deep South. As the only black child in his sixth-grade class in a newly-integrated school in Muscle Shoals, and one of the first black children to play on an integrated Little League team in Alabama, Newsome credited sports as a transcendent experience for him: “Athletics was an area that helped cross the racism line, and on the field we were all pretty much the same.” (Pigskin Dreams p 129 He became a multi sport athlete early playing baseball and basketball competitively before playing football ...

Article

Rob Ruck

Posey, Cum (20 June 1890–28 March 1946), owner of baseball's Homestead Grays, owner of baseball’s Homestead Grays, was born Cumberland Willis Posey, Jr., in Homestead, Pennsylvania, the son of Cumberland Willis Posey, a businessman, and Anna Stephens, a teacher. The man who made people think about the river town of Homestead for something other than its steel mills and the epic labor confrontation of 1892 was the son of one of black Pittsburgh’s most prominent and wealthy men. Captain Cumberland Posey, Sr., was a riverboat engineer who turned to shipbuilding and later coal mining and real estate. The president of the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, the prestigious Loendi Club, and the Warren Methodist Episcopal Church, the elder Posey bequeathed to his son access to “respectable” black Pittsburgh.

But young Cum gravitated to the sporting scene in the Hill Pittsburgh s principal ghetto where he often played for roughneck ...

Article

Rob Ruck

Cum Posey was born Cumberland Willis Posey, Jr., in Homestead, Pennsylvania, the son of Cumberland Willis Posey, a businessman, and Anna Stephens, a teacher. The man who made people think about the river town of Homestead for something other than its steel mills and the epic labor confrontation of 1892 was the son of one of black Pittsburgh's most prominent and wealthy men. Captain Cumberland Posey, Sr., was a riverboat engineer who turned to shipbuilding and later coal mining and real estate. The president of the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, the prestigious Loendi Club, and the Warren Methodist Episcopal Church, the elder Posey bequeathed to his son access to “respectable” black Pittsburgh.

But young Cum gravitated to the sporting scene in the Hill Pittsburgh s principal ghetto where he often played for roughneck teams against those representing black Pittsburgh s upper crust After graduating Homestead High School ...