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The Greatest Pitcher Never Known

I was listening to the Tom Joyner Morning Show and I must say it is a great source of empowerment for our community – thank you Mr. Joyner and the crew. He has a thing once a week called the Little Known Black History Fact. This particular fact got my attention because I am a huge fan of the players who have been virtually erased from the book of history or at least His-Story.

Sure we know Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige but that is about the extent of our knowledge of a game African Americans championed. We this story was about the man referred to as “The Greatest Pitcher Never Known” and his name was Will “Cannonball” Jackman. Jackman joined the Boston Colored Giants in the 1924-1925 season and played ball until he was well into his sixties. He won more than half of the 1,200 games he pitched over 20 years, with nearly 800 strikeouts and more than 40 shutouts. His record was 52 and 2.

Sometimes nicknamed the “Satchel Paige of New England,” it was reported that Will Jackman earned $175 a game and $10 per strikeout. But later in his career, he reportedly received $500-$800 for playing against white semi-pro teams in the exhibition games. This was only a portion of what the white players received, but on the high end for most black players. Jackman’s worth, however, was said to be more than the combination of several white players; New York Giants coach John McGraw was recorded saying he would “pay $50,000 to the man who could make Jackman white.”

The actual date of his birth was stated between 1897 or 1899 in Carta, Texas. He may have found his love of baseball while watching the nearby spring training camp of the New York Giants in San Antonio. Jackman started playing with the Houston Black Buffalos, drifting to Maryland and New York before actually joining the Boston Colored Giants in 1925.

Although he was payed for his crowd-appealing pitches, Will Jackman took a side job as a chaffuer to send money to his family, keeping his job during the off seasons and well into retirement.

The Negro League pitcher left a trail of strikeouts while playing with teams in Texas, Oklahoma, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. Throughout his career, Will Jackman went on to play for the Philadelphia Giants, the Philadelphia Tigers, the Brooklyn Eagles, the Newark Eagles, and the Boston Royal Giants. In the 1952 Pittsburgh Courier’s player-voted poll of the “all-time great Negro League players,” Will Jackman was voted number one.

When the Boston Red Sox were scouting for African-American players to finally join their roster in the 1950’s, they looked to Will “Cannonball” Jackman for guidance and recruiting.

Will “Cannonball” Jackman died on September 8, 1972 surrounded by friends and family. In his honor, the Cannonball Foundation, an organization that promotes baseball play among youth in low-income urban communities, was formed.

This was, I thought, an amazing story of one of the greatest to ever play the game and because he received no acclaim I want to say I honor you, and thank you. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Source: The Little Known Black History Fact
TJMS

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The Magic of #42

There are moments in time where time itself demands change. There was such a moment in the Spring of 1947 when an African American baseball player named Jackie Robinson stepped up to the plate and changed the face of the game. It is an honor for me to pay homage to Mr. Robinson whose character, stature, and integrity was beyond reproach.

Born January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia, Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play in the so-called major leagues in more than fifty years. Throughout his decade-long career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he made advancements in the cause of civil rights for black athletes. In 1955, he helped the Dodgers win the World Series. He retired in 1957, with a career batting average of .311.

Now, as is often the case with His-Story much of what we know about history is a myth. Let me use a quote that I often use by the prolific French writer, historian, and philosopher Voltaire who said, “History is a pack of trick we play upon the dead”. What I mean by that is this dynamic historical event actually was a simple as a black man being allowed to play a game with white people as a result of the rigid “Jim Crow” laws mandated by the law of the land – America.

At the time, the sport as well as America was segregated. African-Americans and whites played in separate leagues with Robinson who played in the famed Negro Leagues, but was chosen by Branch Rickey, a vice president with the Brooklyn Dodgers, to help integrate major league baseball. He joined the all-white Montreal Royals, a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1945. He moved to Florida in 1946 to begin spring training with the Royals, and played his first game on March 17 of that same year.

Now, we have been told that Branch Rickey did this out of good conscience and for the cause of civil rights. Well that is not exactly true. Rickey saw an opportunity to make money. The Negro league was prospering and the white league was barely surviving. He knew if he could convince one Negro player, and Robinson was not the best player in the Negro league, Rickey knew others would follow, and they did. Hence, the Negro league ceased to exist. Let me add that Mr. Robinson, an average player, was better than all of the white players playing in the white league at the time.

It is not my intention to neither demean nor take away from the significance of the huge step toward equality. Despite the racial abuse, particularly at away games, Robinson character prevailed as he endured the most brutal harassment, threats, and derogatory language hurled at him on and off the field. It is because of his superb character that we should celebrate this great man.

Jackie Robinson succeeded in putting the prejudice and racial strife aside, and showed everyone what a talented player he was. In his first year, he hit 12 home runs and helped the Dodgers win the National League pennant. That year, Robinson led the National League in stolen bases and was selected as Rookie of the Year. He continued to wow fans and critics alike with impressive feats, such as an outstanding .342 batting average during the 1949 season. He led in stolen bases that year and earned the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award.

Robinson also became a vocal champion for African-American athletes, civil rights, and other social and political causes. In July 1949, he testified on discrimination before the House Un-American Activities Committee. In 1952, he publicly called out the Yankees as a racist organization for not having broken the color barrier five years after he began playing with the Dodgers.

In his decade-long career with the Dodgers, Robinson and his team won the National League pennant several times. Finally, in 1955, he helped them achieve the ultimate victory: the World Series. After failing before in four other series match-ups, the Dodgers beat the New York Yankees. He helped the team win one more National League pennant the following season, and was then traded to the New York Giants. Jackie Robinson retired shortly after the trade, on January 5, 1957, with an impressive career batting average of .311.

Let me close with what really happen that day – number 42 was just a number until Mr. Jack Robinson wore it! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective.

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