Gloria Malarcher Youngblood never met her great-uncle, David Julius Malarcher, but she’s heard other family members talk about the man dubbed Gentleman Dave ever since she could remember.
That reverence among her fellow Malarchers for the man who rose up from humble beginnings in St. James Parish to become one of the greatest third baseman and managers — not to mention one of the most genuine, educated and gentlemanly figures — ever to grace the diamonds of the Negro Leagues permeates family discussions about David.
“We’re very proud of him,” Mrs. Malarcher Youngblood told me last night. “Very, very, very proud, I can tell you that. He’s a legend in our family.”
Gloria lives near Convent in St. James Parish, right near the east bank of the Mississippi River, maybe a little over an hour west of New Orleans. There are numerous Malarchers still living in that area, and someday soon I hope to venture to Convent to meet some of them and visit Gentleman Dave Malarcher’s grave in the cemetery at St. Michael’s United Methodist Church.
I’m in the process of working on a story on Gentleman Dave for the New Orleans Zephyrs‘ annual game program, and I’m working on nominating him for the New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame.
In addition, I’m formulating a possible book-length project on the man who was given the ultimate amount of respect from teammates, opponents, fans and the media during and after his days with the New Orleans University varsity squad to the semipro New Orleans Eagles to the Indianapolis ABCs to the world champion Chicago American Giants.
I’ve already dug a great deal into Dave’s familial and ancestral roots in St. James Parish, as well as the historical context in which the Malarcher family story rests. The Malarcher tale traces back to a French aristocrat and slave owner who arrived in Louisiana around 1800 after fleeing the Toussaint Louverture-led revolt in Haiti.
Over the next couple weeks, I’ll focus on telling that story, starting, naturally, at the beginning with Chevalier Louis Malarcher d’Aspremont and ending with Gloria Malarcher Youngblood and her fellow living relatives of Gentleman Dave Malarcher.
The narrative winds from slavery on the sugar plantations that made St. James one of the most prosperous parishes in Louisiana before the Civil War, though Dave’s surprisingly pleasant youth on the banks of the mighty Mississippi through a near-legendary career as player-manager of the great Chicago American Giants teams of the late 1920s.
It’s a tale that, says Gloria Malarcher Youngblood, has been extensively explored by her relatives.
“My cousin did that research,” she says. “He’s been digging and digging and digging, doing research for years. The Malarcher line goes deep, and it’s long. There’s a long line of Malarchers.”
Thus, in the end, the story of a legendary Negro Leagues figure is about family.
“You call him Gentleman Dave,” she says. “We call him Uncle.”
So for the next couple weeks, I’ll explore the Gentleman Dave, and Uncle, narrative in a series of blog posts about him, his roots in rural Louisiana and his connection to New Orleans. I’m going to try very hard to do something at least every other day.
For now, I’ll conclude this post with a quote from a narrative Gentleman Dave related to groundbreaking writer and journalist John Holway that I found in the Dillard University archives:
“Propaganda is a terrible thing. The propaganda of segregation and bigotry is evil. It deceives people. I used to have Negroes occasionally tell me, ‘Do you think Negroes can play in the Major Leagues?’ And do you know what I would say to them? ‘Do you think so and so here, who is a barber, can cut hair like a white man?’ I would say, ‘Do you think Doctor so-and-so, who is teaching in a medical school, can teach a white professor?’ Well, certainly. And I would say, ‘What’s baseball that I can’t play it like a white?’ And I used to say occasionally that if they say that the Negro is the nearest thing to the savage, I think he would play better than a white, because baseball is only running and jumping and throwing a stick. He would be better. But the whole point is that the propaganda of keeping the Negro out of the Major Leagues made even some of the Negroes think that we didn’t have the ability. It started them to thinking it too. But I said, ‘Just wait until we get in there, and see what happens.’ And they used to ask me, ‘When do you think we will get in?’ And I said, ‘When we can prove to the white man that we can bring him something, that’s when we will get in there.'”