I wish to dedicate this poem to the great men and women of the Negro Baseball Leagues who were denied participation in the national pastime solely because they were Black. This poem was published in the book: Crossing Limits Anthology, “African Americans and American Jews”, 1996. The Negro League players won the vast majority of the exhibition baseball games (barnstorming) against the major league white players of that era. Special thanks to the great Red Sox player, Ted Williams who lobbied very vociferously for the Negro League players to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
MAN, COULD THEY PLAY THAT GAME
Josh, Cool Papa, Satchel, Buck, Monte
Judy, Campy, Oscar, Martin, Ray D., John Pop,
Minnie, Rube Foster and others,
Man, could they play that game!
For we all know why they were selected
into the baseball Hall of Fame.
Man they could hit, run, field,
pitch, steal bases, drive in runs
equally as good or better than the great white
elite players of their day
from the New York Island to the
San Francisco Bay.
Their historical denial
to play the national pastime
is still considered by many
to be a major crime.
Yes they were banned for years
because of racism and white America’s fears.
Cool Papa ran the bases so fast
players felt in order to stop Cool Papa
they needed a pair of Everlast
Oh! Josh could hit the Long Ball
with great authority and consistency
over any Major League Wall.
How unfortunate he never received
an appropriate Major League call.
Satchel had a fast ball that curved
in and out and blooped over the plate.
Isn’t it a shame that old Satchel
arrived in the Major Leagues
with the Cleveland Indians so late.
And man, wouldn’t you have liked to
have seen old Josh behind Home Plate
in Cleveland Municipal Stadium as Satchel’s
steady battery mate.
They rode those old buses
from town to town
never letting their guard down
or they wouldn’t be around.
At times they had to eat out of cans
however, they still kept a loyal following
among their dedicated fans.
They loved the game of baseball
and played it merely for fun.
Now we all know why they will
always have a special place
in the Sun.
I remember seeing the Grays and
Monarchs play at Forbes Field
for those great men also had dreams
although many were killed.
Were they not the true boys of summer
playing that game
and since Jackie and Larry came on the scene
the national pastime
has never been the same.
They were the ship, all else the sea
for they made all of our lives
a little more joyful and free.
The Negro League players were
the true pioneers that paved the way
for the Bonds, McRae’s, Griffey’s
and Alou’s of today.
Special thanks to Hammerin Hank
Let us not forget the Afro-Cubans
Afro Dominicans, Afro Puerto Ricans
who could also play that game
And a few of them like Roberto Clemente
and Juan Marichal are enshrined along
with many of the great Negro League players
in Cooperstown, New York, the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ronald B. Saunders