• Jackie Robinson, the African American who integrated modern major-league baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers, was an activist long before he became famous. As a boy, he and his friends would sometimes go to the movie theater and sit in the white-people-only seats. When that happened, the police would arrive to get them out of those seats. Later, while he was playing with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues, his team’s tour bus pulled up at a gas station in Oklahoma. African Americans were allowed to buy gas there, but the men’s restroom bore this sign: “WHITE MEN ONLY.” Mr. Robinson walked to the restroom, and the gas station owner told him that he couldn’t use that restroom. Mr. Robinson then said, “Take that hose out of the tank.” The gas station owner did not want to lose any business, so he allowed Mr. Robinson to use the restroom. After that, the Kansas City Monarchs never bought gas at a gas station where they weren’t allowed to use the restroom. As Mr. Robinson explained, “This is America, man.”
• Women’s sports and women athletes have not always been respected. For example, in the 1960s (well before Title 9) at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, Catherine L. Brown used to teach field hockey on a field that was also used by ROTC cadets. Sometimes, the ROTC cadets would act as if the women athletes were invisible and march onto the field—even during games. On one occasion when this happened, the ROTC cadets were standing at attention—meaning that they could not move—so Ms. Brown ordered the game to continue, and she rewarded each woman athlete who managed to hit the legs of an ROTC cadet with the ball.
• For a very long time, the Kenilworth Hotel in Miami, Florida, did not allow Jews to stay there. Finally, in 1960, some Jewish sportswriters covering the New York Yankees’ spring training trip were allowed to integrate the hotel’s guest list. Leonard Shecter, a man with a sharp mind and acid tongue from the New York Post, hired a bellman to walk throughout the hotel and yell, “Paging Stanley Isaacs.”
• In 1948, African-American pitcher Satchel Paige joined the Cleveland Indians and became the oldest rookie in the major leagues at age 42. He had made a name for himself in the Negro Leagues, but until Jackie Robinson broke the color line, no black athletes played in the major leagues. Indians shortstop and manager Lou Boudreau strongly supported integrating the major leagues, but he wondered whether Satchel was too old to play major-league baseball. Therefore, Mr. Boudreau put Mr. Paige through a workout to test his skills. First, Mr. Boudreau caught several of Mr. Paige’s pitches; nearly all were in the strike zone. Next, Mr. Boudreau, who was almost a .400 hitter at the time, tried to hit Mr. Paige’s pitches. Mr. Paige threw 20 pitches, and Mr. Boudreau failed to make solid contact with any of them. Shortly thereafter, the Indians offered Mr. Paige a contract. By the way, Mr. Paige’s career as a major-league pitcher was long-lived. In 1965, when Mr. Paige was 59 years old, Charles O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, brought Mr. Paige in to pitch three innings as a way to boost attendance. In three innings, Mr. Paige allowed one hit and no runs, leaving the game with a 1-0 lead; unfortunately, the Athletics lost the game, 5-2, to the Boston Red Sox.
• Elwin “Preacher” Roe was one sports star who knew when it was time to quit. He was a good pitcher for the Dodgers in the 1940s and 1950s, and when catcher Roy Campanella knew that Preacher was pitching, he would say, “They can cut the middle of the plate out and throw it away—ol’ Preach ain’t gonna use it.” Preach had more than control; he also had a good fastball that he called his burner. However, one day he was on the mound facing Stan Musial. Preach says, “I was old, I was tired, and I was facing the best hitter in the National League. I reached back to get the last bit of good stuff I had. My burner got away from me and was heading right for Stan’s head.” Then came the moment when Preach knew it was time to quit: “Fellows, I had time to yell ‘Look out!’ three times before it got there.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Buy