Monday, June 12, 2006

Classic Series About to Open; East wins Exhibition

On the eve of the East-West Classic Negro League All-Star Series the East squad spanked the West 8-1 before 2,918 fans at Harrisburg's Island Park. The East received stellar pitching from starter Satchel Paige, who got the win, and diminutive fireballer Leon Day, who got the save. It was a combined two-hitter. Monte Irvin paced the attack with two solo homers while Harrisburgers Oscar Charleston and Rap Dixon also went yard. Louis Santop homered for the West's only run. Both Hilton Smith and Chet Brewer pitched ineffectively for the West. The East is considered a slight favorite in the five game series which begins tomorrow in Comiskey Park Chicago.

West 000 010 000 - 1 2 0 LP-Smith

East 000 151 01x - 8 10 0 WP-Paige

HR- Irvin 2, Charleston, Dixon, Santop

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Before Jackie Robinson, there was Cool Papa Bell

This article appeared in the Allentown Morning Call one week before the death of Bob Peterson. It was written by his daughter Margie.
Before Jackie Robinson, there was Cool Papa Bell 
by Margie Peterson
February 9, 2006
 ''There is a story that one day during the 1930s the Pittsburgh Crawfords [an all black professional baseball team] were playing in
Forbes Field in Pittsburgh when their young catcher, Josh Gibson, hit
the ball so high and far that no one saw it come down. After scanning the sky carefully for a few minutes, the umpire deliberated and ruled
it a home run. The next day the Crawfords were playing in Philadelphia
when suddenly a ball dropped out of the heavens and was caught by a startled centerfielder on the opposing club. The umpire made the only
possible ruling. Pointing to Gibson he shouted, 'Yer out -- yesterday in Pittsburgh.' '' 
I'm lifting a lot of this history from the book, because I'm fairly sure the author won't sue me. He wouldn't want to loot his grandsons'
college fund. As a semi-pro catcher in the late 1940s, my father, Robert W. Peterson, played against barnstorming black teams. In 1966, he walked
into a Harlem liquor store owned by ex-big league star Roy Campanella
and started the interviews that would become the lifeblood of ''Only the Ball Was White.''
 Campanella told him where to find former Negro leagues stars Buck Leonard and Judy Johnson, who was scouting for the Philadelphia
Phillies at the time. My father talked to them and they gave him more names.
In 1971, the year after ''Only the Ball Was White'' was published, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown inducted its first Negro leagues
star รข€" pitcher Satchel Paige. Sixteen others have since joined him.
This month, my father, who lives in Lower Macungie Township, is slated
to be one of 12 historians of black baseball to vote on players being considered for induction. Unable to travel, he will vote absentee.
 Over the years, my father has been asked: What's a white guy doing writing about black history? Invariably, his reply is that it's
American history. ''Negro baseball was at once heroic and tawdry, a gladsome thing and a blot on America's conscience,'' he wrote in 1970.
 Everyone gets a legacy. Plumbers' kids learn how to fix leaky faucets.
A millionaire's son wins a life of luxury. I was lucky enough to learn
a fascinating piece of American history at the feet of the guy who wrote it. That's riches enough.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Morning Call 

Robert W. Peterson, Negro Leagues Historian, Dies at 80

Robert W. Peterson, Negro Leagues Historian, Dies at 80
Robert W. Peterson, whose pioneering history of the Negro leagues, "Only the Ball Was White," recaptured a lost era in baseball history
and a rich facet of black life in America, died Saturday at a hospital
in Salisbury Township, Pa. Mr. Peterson, who lived in Lower Macungie
Township, Pa., was 80. His death was announced by his wife, Peggy, who said he had lung cancer.
When Mr. Peterson's account of black baseball was published by Prentice-Hall in 1970, little was known of the Negro leagues apart
from the memories of black Americans who had been thrilled by players like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. Black baseball had
flourished in a segregated America but was largely ignored by the
mainstream press and went out of business in the 1950's, soon after the major league color barrier had been smashed.
When Mr. Peterson was growing up in Warren, Pa., he had seen some of
the great Negro leaguers in barnstorming games. He later played baseball at Upsala College in East Orange, N.J., and worked as an
editor for The World-Telegram and The Sun. When the paper closed in 1966, he turned to freelance writing and set out to learn the history
of the Negro leagues by interviewing the star players and studying microfilm of black newspapers.
Mr. Peterson was inspired by those memories from his boyhood. In the preface to "Only the Ball Was White," he recalled: "One summer day in
1939 a kid squatted on the bank behind home plate at Russell Field in Warren, Pennsylvania, fielding foul balls (which could be redeemed for
a nickel each" no small consideration in those days), and saw Josh Gibson hit the longest home run ever struck in Warren County. It was
one of many impressive feats performed by touring black players that excited the wonder and admiration of that foul-ball shagger. This book
is the belated fruit of his wonder."
Mr. Peterson's book traced black baseball's history from the 19th century and provided first-person accounts, brief biographies of
leading players, league standings and statistics. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Rex Lardner called the book "a worthy and
fascinating addition to anyone's baseball library."
Many books on black baseball have been written in the decades since, transforming a long-neglected chapter of baseball history into a
well-chronicled saga. 
Mr. Peterson also wrote "Cages to Jump Shots: Pro Basketball's Early Years," "Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football" and "The Boy
Scouts: An American Adventure."
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Thomas, of Westfield, N.J.; a daughter, Margaret Peterson, of Salisbury Township,
Pa.; and two grandsons.
In his memoir, "Hardball," Bowie Kuhn recalled that when he became baseball commissioner in 1969, a debate had arisen over whether to
induct stars of the Negro leagues into the Hall of Fame. The Peterson
book, Kuhn said, "focused greater attention on the accomplishments of Negro League players."
In 1971, Paige became the first Negro leagues star inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he has been followed by 17 others. Mr. Peterson was
named to the 12-member unit that will vote Feb. 27 on the possible induction of additional figures from black baseball. In view of his
failing health, he had cast a ballot in absentia.
In an epilogue in "Only the Ball Was White," Mr. Peterson called for giving full honors at Cooperstown to Negro leagues stars. "So long as
the Hall of Fame is without a few of the great stars of Negro
baseball," he wrote, "the notion that it represents the best in baseball is nonsense." 

Catching Up

I regret that I have not posted since January 14, 2006. However, neither life nor the Harrisburg Giants season has been as neglectful. Both have relentlessly moved on. I just have not chronicled the happenings – happy/sad, joyous and moving, significant and lasting, ephemeral.

Here is a quick summary of some of the items that I have failed to report on here in the Harrisburg Giants blog:

The Death of Mr. Peterson

The election of 17 Negro League players and owners to the Hall of Fame

Bill Staffa’s production of an APBA compatible card set of Negro League Hall of Famers

Pennsylvania Black History Conference

10th Annual Harrisburg Senators Negro League Commemorative Night

“Hall of Famers in the Parking Lot”

Linkage to the Negro League Yahoo Group

118 games of Harrisburg Giant baseball

Upcoming Events include:

The culmination of the 2006-I Harrisburg Giant season, now through next week

The East-West Classic All-Star Series, June 13-17

The new 2006-II Harrisburg Giant season, opens July 3rd

9th annual Jerry Malloy Negro League Research Conference, Kansas City, July 7-9

Induction of 17 Negro Leaguers into the Hall of Fame, July 30th

2nd annual Lancaster Barnstormers Negro League Night, August 1st

10th annual Judy Johnson Night, Wilmington, DE, August 19th

I hope to recap a few of the events in the first list and to keep my hundreds of readers updated on the upcoming events a little more faithfully than I have since January. Happy Reading! Let’s play two!