Willie’s Boys, The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend by John Klima; 2009; $25.95; John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, N.J.; 978-0-470-40013-5; Interlibrary Loan from Tigard Public Library; 5/19-5/25
Why did I pick this up? I am old enough to remember Willie playing. The first card I remember pulling out of a pack of baseball cards was a 1968 Topps card of Willie Mays. Also a member of the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons was Artie Wilson, whom I was privileged to spend some time with over the past few years.
What did I learn? The men of the 1948 Black Barons took the very young Willie Mays under their wing. In ’48 Willie was a sophmore in High School and Piper Davis, Artie Wilson, Ed Steele, Johnny Zapp and others showed him how to play and become a man. Willies’ father Cat insisted that Willie finish High School and get his diploma before playing professionally. There were all kinds of back room shenanigans going on in the race to sign Willie. There was all of kinds of racist bullshit also going on and that prevented some exciting teamings. Racism kept Mays from ever playing with either Ted Williams or Joe Dimaggio.
Did I like it? Yes, this is much more than a sports story. This is the story of a team that knows most of them don’t have a future in white man’s ball and they pull together to elevate one of their own so that his future in insured. They even sacrifice at times to make the dream come true for one of their own. The author is able to express the feelings and the dreams of these men. This team is much more than a team, they are family in many ways.
What is with the title of the review? There is a passage on pages 282-283 that so moved me that I came home and read it to my wife, something I haven’t done in a long time.
George Stablein was once a contestant of the Dating Game and then was featured on the Newlywed Game, I don't he ever made it to Divorce Court. It was like a 80's reality show. Ok, Ok, I made all that up. Now I am going to go check references.
We might have been better off going with what I made up. George was born in October of 1957, which makes him a month younger than me. He went to West Torrance High School in Torrance, CA. Then he went to Cal State Dominguez Hills. He was drafted by the Padres in the third round in 1978. He played in the garden spots of Reno and Amarillo in 78 and 79. He got called up in 1980 and pitched in 4 games, with an 0-1 record and an ERA of 3.09. He then played in Hawaii for the rest of 1980 and 81 and 82. In 1983 he split time between the Padres Beaumont club and the Brewers Vancouver, B.C. team. Then he was done.
I got Mr Stablein signature through the mail with an address from Harveys list.
The only thing I remember about Ed Sprague off the top of my head is that he is married to an Olympic gymnast, Julianne McNamara I think. Time to go to Wikipedia and Baseball Reference. Be back in a couple of minutes.
Okay I'm back and wondering whom I have Ed mixed up with. He is married to Kristen Babb, who was an Olympic Gold Medalist in synchronized swimming. His Dad, Ed Sprague, pitched in the majors from 1968-1976. Junior won two College World Series at Stanford, and a Gold Medal in baseball in the 1988 Olympics. He played for the Padres in 2000, he played 53 games for San Diego was traded to the Red Sox, played 33 games for Boston, was released. He resigned with the Pads and finished the season with San Diego. He also played for the Jays, A's, Mariners, and Pirates. He admitted using PEDs and admitted hitting one run with a corked bat. He led the league a couple of years in HBP. He is currently the head coach at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. I don't recall how I obtained this signature.
P.S. Julianne McNamara is married to Todd Zeile.
One of the volunteers at the book store I manage is also a waitress at a local restaurant, McMenamins Tavern and Pool. She told me there was a group of gentleman who had breakfast together on the third Wednesday of each month. She asked if I could come and have breakfast with them sometimes and they said yes. These are men in their 70's and 80's who grew up together in NW Portland, near Vaughn Street, where the Portland Beavers first played. One of the men is Dick Benevento, son of Rocky Benevento. Rocky was the longtime groundskeeper for the Beavers. I sat this past Wednesday with Vince Paveskovic, you may have heard of his brother, Johnny Pesky. Breakfast was just a couple of days after Harmon Killebrew passed away and Vince told a story about Johnny and Harmon. It was advice Harmon gave Johnny when they were both with the Senators, keep your head down and be good to the people. I am looking forward to joining the guys for more breakfast and stories.
Hey I know you were all awaiting breathlessly for me to post something. Well here you go. I just read a history of the Pacific Coast League Padres and reviewed it. Today I did yard work, took my son to work and picked up dinner for my wife (where I had to wait for 1/2 hour for her break). Read a little bit in Willie's Boys, the story of the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons and the last Negro League World Series. It is a fun read because I have always been a fan of Willie Mays and one of the players on that team was Artie Wilson. I got to spend some time talking with Artie before he passed away last Halloween. My wife sewed for Arties' wife and when Ruth had something to pick up or drop off I would often go over and talk with Artie. It was great to hear stories of Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson, Cool Papa Bell and be introduced to Piper Davis.
A couple of years the Multnomah County Library, whom I work for applied for the right to host an exhibit from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, titled Pride and Passion, the African-American Baseball Experience. When they began to write the application Amy, who was writing the application was told to talk with me about it. I gave her some input and she sent in the application, and the library was granted the right to host the exhibit. We will be hosting the exhibit November 30, 2011 to January 27, 2012. Cindy who got the assignment when Amy left is working to fill 12 display cases with cards, posters, scorecards and all kinds of other things to fill the gallery space. I am loaning some of my Negro League stuff, which centers around Artie for the exhibit. I know some of you collect Negro League stuff, if you would be interested in loaning some stuff for the exhibit please let me know. It would be mailed insured and insured while on display and returned to you upon the end of the exhibit. There will be security on the exhibit at all times, the gallery is in the Central Library in downtown Portland. If you want more information contact me at Padrographs at live.com or call me at five oh three eight nine one one six six one.
I am going to try and post more regularly, but unless the Padres improve some I may still be to depressed to post at all. I have to clean up my mancave also so that I can find some stuff, as I clean I may be sending some stuff out. I just found a Penguin that will be going to New York.
Even though I haven't been posting I have been reading all of your blogs and keeping up with things.