Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

As you may know, I follow baseball. This weekend, television and radio announcers marked Memorial day by chatting about major leaguers who served in the US military -- Ted Williams and such.

They overlooked the service of Negro League players, however.

Leon Day was born in Alexandria, VA on October 30, 1916. According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, "he spent two years pitching on integrated Army teams during WWII and on his first game back with the Eagles on 1946, tossed a no hitter against the Philadelphia Stars."

His plaque at Cooperstown reads: "“Used deceptive no wind up short arm delivery to compile impressive single season and career statistics during ten years in Negro Leagues. Also played ball in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico and Canada. Set Negro National League record in 1942 with 18 K’s in a game. Hurled no hitter on opening day 1946 for Newark Eagles vs. Philadephia Stars. Pitched in a record 7 Negro League All-Star Games."

As with almost all of the Negro League players in the Baseball Hall of Fame, no statistics are reported for Leon Day. Negro Leagues baseball was less regularized than major league ball, but as integration ultimately demonstrated, Negro League players were no less talented than white players.

Jackie Robinson also served in the military during World War II. He did not serve overseas, however, because at the time his unit was deployed he was in the midst of being court martialled by the Army. His offense? Challenging the military police officers who questioned and arrested him when he refused to move to the back of a bus. He was acquitted by an all-white jury of nine officers.

True story.

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