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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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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 ...

Article

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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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 ...

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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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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 ...

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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 ...

Article

Rob Ruck

baseball player and team owner, 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 black section where he often played for roughneck teams against those representing black Pittsburgh s upper crust After graduating from ...

Article

Keith Whitescarver

basketball player, coach, and executive, was born in Hico, Louisiana, the only child of Inell Ross Reed, a domestic, and Willis Reed Sr. At the time of Reed's birth, his father served in the U.S. Army, a position he held for the duration of World War II. Back in civilian life, Reed's six-foot-four-inch-tall father made his living as an agricultural worker and eventually as a warehouse foreman in the small town of Bernice in northern Louisiana.

Growing up during the Jim Crow era, Reed attended one of the segregated, underfunded rural schools of Louisiana. As a six-foot-six-inch-tall 14-year-old at Westside Consolidated School, Reed, with the guidance of his coach, practiced relentlessly on the dirt basketball courts of his neighborhood. His game improved along with his height, which reached nearly six feet ten inches during his senior year in 1960 He led his school to the ...

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Mary Krane Derr

physician, pianist, and baseball-team owner, was born Hilda Mae (or May) Bolden in the Philadelphia suburb of Darby, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Nellie Bolden, a homemaker and civic volunteer, and Edward Bolden, a postal clerk, owner of the all-black Philadelphia Stars baseball team, and founder of the Eastern Colored League. Taught by her mother, Hilda Bolden demonstrated early talent as a pianist. At age three, she gave her first public performance. Her parents encouraged her to excel also at school. The first African American valedictorian at Darby High School, she had some white students walk on her when she gave her speech, but she continued nonetheless.

Hilda Bolden earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and then attended Meharry Medical College On a Rosenwald Fellowship she studied pediatrics at the University of Chicago She completed her pediatrics residency at Provident Hospital There as reported ...

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David Borsvold

professional basketball player, coach, and front-office executive, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of nine children of Isiah Thomas II, a plant foreman, and Mary Thomas, a civil servant. The family lived in a poor, high-crime neighborhood on the city's west side. Thomas's father lost his job at International Harvester, was forced to work as a janitor and, when Thomas was three years old, left the family. His mother held the family together, attempting to insulate the children from drug abuse and violent crime, even to the point of once using a shotgun to scare off neighborhood gang members.

Growing up in such difficult circumstances under the protection of his older siblings Thomas developed a veneer of smiling innocence that hid a street smart inner toughness Seeing the Harlem Globetrotters play basketball ignited a desire in the young Thomas to master the game himself ...

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Dolph H. Grundman

basketball player, executive, and coach, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Charles D. Unseld, a blue-collar worker, and Cornelia D. Unseld, a school cafeteria worker. The Unselds had seven children of their own and two adopted boys. In 1963 the National Conference of Christians and Jews honored the family with its brotherhood award for rebuilding a local recreation center damaged by a fire. The seed of community service was planted early in Wes Unseld's life and remained important to him. Athletic ability in the Unseld family was not limited to Wes. His brother George played basketball at the University of Kansas from 1962 to 1964. Wes credited Carl Wright, his freshman high school coach, with fueling his interest in basketball. Wright developed Wes's basketball skills in daily one-on-one contests.

At Seneca High in Louisville Unseld played football and won the state championship in ...