O’Neil should have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame but never was. His career stats may not be up to snuff but his 70-plus years as a player, a manager, a scout, and an ambassador deserved recognition.
Flood became estranged from his family and friends and moved to Spain where he ran a bar for a while. Eventually, he got his life cleaned up and was honored by the NAACP as the recipient of the Jackie Robinson award in 1992. After a two-year battle with throat cancer he died in 1997 at the age of 59.
The first black player to play in the NHL was Willie O’Ree. O’Ree was born in the small coastal town of Fredericton in New Brunswick. His family was one of only two black families in the entire city.
Owing as much to timing as to any sense of advanced enlightenment, professional basketball’s color line was broken in just the fourth season of existence for the NBA.
There I was the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, and a symbolic hero to my people.
The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps it was, but then again perhaps the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment.
There might not be a better example of the Dreams Fulfilled idea than Ernie Banks. He came of age right as Jackie Robinson was breaking the color barrier and says that event inspired him. But there was still a lag time between Robinson playing for the Dodgers and other teams following suit so Banks had to go what was at the time the traditional route for a black ball player.
Obviously, it’s a good thing that baseball long ago became a sport that anyone with the ability to do so can play at the highest level regardless of the color of their skin. But the fact is that for many years many good ballplayers were not allowed in Major League Baseball and thus had to show their skills in the Negro Leagues. The stories of those players and their achievements are worth telling. That can be tough to do with the limited amout of information and eyewitnesses.
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game -- it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.
The Indianapolis Clowns occupy a unique place in baseball history. They were the final Negro League team in existence, playing games as a barnstorming team until 1989.