One Nation under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime

By John Florio; Ouisie Shapiro | Go to book overview

“When I drove down to spring training,” Bouton recalls, “we passed a couple of small towns that had giant billboards: Knights of the KKK, with [images of] horses and hoods. And I thought, ‘Whoa.’ That was part of going through red dirt, clay country. One time, we stayed overnight somewhere and I saw a sign that read, ‘Nigger, don’t let the sun go down on you in this town.’”

The issue, of course, was especially galling to black players making the same trip.

Bill White, the thickly built, six-foot first baseman on the Cardinals, had been raised in racially mixed Warren, Ohio. As White describes it, his hometown was progressive enough to have integrated schools, but it wasn’t advanced enough to elect a black official or to discontinue its practice of disinfecting public swimming pools after blacks had swum in them. White had attended Hiram College as a premed student, lettered in basketball, football, and baseball, and would have looked as natural working in a medical lab as running the bases at Al Lang Field. White had spent four years in the minors, two of them in the South, and done a year of military service in Kentucky. He had been bounced from “white-only” establishments, called “nigger” to his face, and at one point chased onto the team bus, protected only by his bat-wielding teammates.

“If you were a black man and [a bathroom] didn’t say “colored” on it, you’d best not go in,” White says when speaking about Florida. “For black ballplayers, especially those from the North, it was like suddenly being transported to apartheid South Africa.”

In 1959, when arriving to his first spring training camp in St. Pete, White had taken a “colored” taxi from the airport to the team hotel. Once in the lobby, he gave his name to the desk clerk and asked for his room key.

As White recalled in his memoir, Uppity, the clerk looked at him as if he “had dropped in from another planet.”

The hotel employee then directed White to another “colored” cab and told him he’d be staying across town. He gave White the address of a widow, Mrs. Williams, who rented rooms to “colored” players.

The cab delivered White to the Williams home. As he was settling in he was greeted by Cardinals teammate Bob Gibson.

White was tired, hungry, and pissed-off.

-9-

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One Nation under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword Bob Costas vii
  • A Note to the Reader ix
  • 1 1
  • 2 8
  • 3 23
  • 4 31
  • 5 43
  • 6 51
  • 7 58
  • 8 65
  • 9 72
  • 10 86
  • 11 100
  • 12 111
  • 13 126
  • 14 129
  • 15 138
  • 16 150
  • 17 156
  • 18 164
  • 19 173
  • 20 180
  • 21 192
  • Epilogue- 1975 201
  • Acknowledgments 203
  • Bibliography 205
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