Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

1952 . . . a Year to Remember

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

1952 . . . a Year to Remember

Article excerpt

You might remember Joe Black.

Maybe you recall his radio commentaries, or his syndicated newspaper column, "By The Way," in the 60s and 70s. The commentaries and columns were always followed by a trademark footnote about Greyhound bus lines. Black worked for Greyhound, in some capacity, from 1962 to 1987. He retired as a senior vice president.

He then set up shop, a marketing consulting firm, in Phoenix, where nowadays he lives and works. Black is 69.

For sports fans, though, Black is part of baseball history. His story is one of trial, triumph, trial, and ultimately, triumph.

A strapping man, at better than 6 feet and 215 pounds, Black played in the majors from 1952 to 1957 when he was released by Washington.

But 1952 - not long after Jackie Robinson had crossed baseball's color line - stands as Black's shining season.

"I was a one-season wonder," Black recently recalled and laughed.

That season the righthander compiled a 15-4 record and 2.15 earned-run average and pitched the Brooklyn Dodgers into the World Series. Some years later, he told a reporter that the thrill of winning the first game of the Series 4-2 win over the Yankees on a two-run home run by Duke Snider had been "great."

But the bigger thrill transpired as the national anthem played, when he thought about the fact that 10 years earlier, blacks had been excluded from pro baseball.

Black's baseball career actually started with the Negro Leagues' Baltimore Elite Giants in 1944.

"And now here were Robinson, Campanella and me getting ready to play with guys likes Hodges, Snider and Reese. Pitching and winning the game was anticlimatic," Black said.

He would be the loser in Games 5 and 7. And over the next few seasons, like the speed on his 95-miles-per-hour fastball, Black's sureness declined. The Dodgers coaches tried to widen Black's pitching repertoire.

It didn't work. From Rookie of the Year in '52 to a so-so 6-3 season in '53 to washed up in '57.

"I lost my confidence," Black said.

The experience might have turned Black bitter. …

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