Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Willie Fordham, Pitched in the Negro Leagues, 83, 1927-2010

Willie Fordham
It is with a sad tone that I report the passing of Wilbur "Willie" Fordham, who pitched for 1952 with the Harrisburg Senators, becoming only the second black player to play for that team. He then played in the Eastern Negro League with the Harrisburg Giants from 1954-55.

Ten days ago, Willie Fordham was a bundle of energy, openly discussing his career as a pitcher in the Negro Leagues with fans as he signed autographs throughout the entire nine innings at the home of the Class A Wilmington Blue Rocks. Fordham was there as part of the 15th Annual Judy Johnson Night which was sponsored by the Judy Johnson Foundation. Late Monday evening, the Museum of Bus Transportation, where Fordham was a fixture for their Negro Leagues tribute, announced his death from pneumonia on August 22nd. He was 83.

Fordham was born July 15, 1927 in Millerstown, PA. He was a graduate of Carlisle High School, served in the Army during World War II and later earned a degree in Elementary Education from Cheney University. He would become the fourth black player for the Harrisburg Senators, which was a Class B affiliate of the Philadelphia Athletics. The lefty ace spent one season (1952) with the Senators and then played for the Harrisburg Giants of the Eastern Negro League in 1954 and 1955.

After his baseball career was over, he worked for the Mechanicsburg Naval Supply Depot for thirty-five years, becoming the first black Twelve Supply Systems Analyst.

In 1996, he published his autobiography, "I Gave It My Best Shot" which details his upbringing in Carlisle, his career in and out of baseball, and his later struggles with MLB to address his patented idea to speed up games. As the details of Fordham's journey are revealed, he provides actual copies of his letters home from Brooklyn Dodgers camp as well as his exchange with MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent to shorten the length of the game.

Fordham was cheerful during the time I spent with him a few weeks ago, and we discussed the process required to produce his autobiography. He explained that he wrote it over the course of a few years following a heart attack to capture his life story for his family and friends. Upon my departure for the evening, after exchanging pleasantries, Fordham left me with the following piece of advice in my quest to publish a book.

"Continuity," he said. "Remember, your readers are going to want continuity. It's the most important thing!"

More Links -

Willie Fordham Video Interview - Highmark Blue Shield Living Legacy
Bus Museum Honors Negro Baseball Teams - NY Times
834 - Wilbur Fordham - Penn Live

I Gave It My Best Shot (The Movie) - Daniel Fordham

Harrisburg Senators 2003 Negro League Tribute -


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