Sunday, August 18, 2013

Marvin Price, 81, youngest to play in the Negro Leagues

Marvin Price, a feared hitter in the Negro Leagues, who was regarded as the youngest player ever to suit up in an official Negro League game, passed away July 31, 2013 in Chicago. His niece Maria Stimpson confirmed his death on Thursday that came after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 81.

Price was born in Chicago on April 5, 1932, the second youngest child to Mary Emma Anderson Price and Porter Earl Price. As a youngster, he developed a passionate appetite for the sport.

"One day, Marvin couldn't come out to play [baseball] because he was sick,” said his sister Gloria Price Stimpson. “The other boys would look up to Marvin, who would be standing in the window, and they'd ask him to make the call – ‘out, safe, foul ball, or fair ball’. He always imagined that baseball would play a huge role in his life.”

Marvin Price - 1995 On-Field Pre-Game Ceremony - M. Stimpson
At the tender age of 14, professional baseball soon became a reality for Price when he was spotted playing baseball in Washington Park by legendary Chicago American Giants outfielder Jimmie Crutchfield. A tryout was soon arranged with owner J.B. Martin at Comiskey Park, where manager Quincy Trouppe initially thought he was the new batboy. It didn’t take long for him to show he wasn’t there to distribute the equipment.

“Dr. J.B. Martin and my family was out there before batting practice at Comiskey Park and I put on a show for ‘em,” said Price in Brent P. Kelley’s, “The Negro Leagues Revisited".

The American Giants decided to take Price on a trip down South, where he could play without jeopardizing his amateur status back in Chicago. Facing the hardened veterans of the black leagues, Price’s mettle was immediately tested after a strong display of hitting.

“I doubled and got hit in the side of the face and got right back in there and doubled again. He told me I had a lot of nerve and guts, so just keep playing,” he said.

After a week, Price returned home to Englewood High School for fear of getting caught playing in the league. He graduated high school in 1949, and caught on as a first baseman with Cleveland Buckeyes. This started a four-year run for Price in the league, playing with the New Orleans Eagles in 1950 and for his hometown Giants from 1951-52. While playing in Chicago, he batted an incredible .390 in 1951, according to the Chicago Defender.

Just as it looked like Price was on the path to major league stardom, his career was interrupted when he enlisted into the military in 1952, where he served four years for the United States Coast Guard.

With the Negro Leagues on the decline after his return, Price played in semi-pro leagues, never losing his love for the game. He used his experience in the Negro Leagues to share with the high school athletes coached by his brother-in-law.

“When my dad started coaching high school baseball, Marvin would frequently show up to teach the boys how to play shortstop -- and they loved it,” said Maria Stimpson. “Even when Marvin wasn't on the field, he was known to just jump up out of the blue and punctuate his conversations with all sorts of animated baseball moves.”

Price went on to work as a supervisor in the Chicago post office for 30 years. Still drawn to the game, he continued to work part-time with the Chicago Park District, where he drew the admiration of the local youth, teaching them the finer points of baseball at Jackson Park Field House.

“Kids have a lot of respect for me ‘cause they know I tell ‘em the truth. I’ve been a lucky man,” Price said.

He is survived by a son and daughter, two granddaughters, two sisters, four nieces, five nephews, and a host of friends throughout the United States. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.


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