Hello from the shadows of the game

Well, this is it. This is what I’ve been hoping to do for a long, long time — start a blog about the Negro Leagues and other pre-integration African-American baseball. For a few weeks, I’ll doubtlessly be shaking out the kinks and learning the WordPress ropes.

However, I won’t waste any time delving into what I’m setting out to do — spread the word about the history of the long-forgotten men (and a few remarkable women) who for so long were forced to play the American pastime under the shadow of segregation.

The name of my blog — Home Plate Don’t Move — comes from a quote from the one and only Satchel Paige, who was giving advice about pitching to win by placing the ball were you want it because, well, home plate don’t move. It’s stationary, and it’s yours to master. Home plate is the same in every baseball game, at every level of the sport and in every far-flung locale in which the game is played. The plate is universal.

And for decades — roughly a century, in fact, — home plate was the same in the Negro Leagues as it was in so-called “organized baseball.” African-Americans played the exact same game whites did. They just did it, as many authors and historians have said, in the shadows.

That should pass for an introduction to what I’m doing. I’ve included in this post a famous picture of my favorite Negro Leagues player — Hall of Famer Walter Fenner “Buck” Leonard, with whom I had the extreme pleasure and thrill of talking before he passed away in 1997. During his Hall induction speech in 1972 — when he and Josh Gibson became the second and third Negro Leaguers enshrined in Cooperstown’s hallowed halls, after ol’ Satch — Buck exuded the humble, self-effacing, proud dignity that countless African-American players displayed throughout their careers despite the indignities and traumas of segregation. “I will do everything in my power,” he told the assembled throng of fans, “to honor and uphold the integrity of baseball.”

What more needs to be said?

leonard_buck_1

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