Showing posts with label Artie Wilson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Artie Wilson. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Baseball Happenings Podcast - Gaylon White Author of 'Singles and Smiles: How Artie Wilson Broke Baseball's Color Barrier'

On the latest Baseball Happenings Podcast, Gaylon White, author of the new Artie Wilson biography, "Singles and Smiles: How Artie Wilson Broke Baseball's Color Barrier," explains how a friendship that started in the 1970s spawned an unparalleled look into the life of an often overlooked pioneer of MLB's integration.

Wilson, who is regarded by many historians as baseball's last .400 hitter after posting a .402 average for the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948, had a career that went much deeper than his 22 major league at-bats in 1951. In this interview, White discusses how Wilson's narrative finally came to light 40 years from their initial meeting, and why for nearly a decade Wilson was one of the most popular players to grace the Pacific Coast League.

Baseball Happenings Podcast - Gaylon White Interview

Click here to listen on Spotify

White has previously authored two baseball works that focus on the 1950s era, "Handsome Ransom Jackson: Accidental Big Leaguer" and "The Bilko Athletic Club: The Story of the 1956 Los Angeles Angels."

For those who are interested in purchasing a copy of "Singles and Smiles: How Artie Wilson Broke Baseball's Color Barrier," Rowman and Littlefield is offering readers a 30% discount with the following code - RLFANDF30.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Artie Wilson, Negro Leagues great and New York Giants shorstop dies at 90

Artie Wilson, who was one of the first black players for the New York Giants died Sunday in Portland after suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He was 90.

While Wilson only batted .182 in 22 at-bats for the Giants in 1951 as a "rookie" at the age of 31, he is regarded as the last .400 hitter from the Negro Leagues, batting .402 for the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948. At the time, his teammate was a 16 year-old outfielder named Willie Mays. Ironically, it would be Wilson who was farmed out by the Giants in 1951 to make room for the future Hall of Famer.

In a September 2000 interview, Wilson reflected on his short time with the Giants. His opportunity to crack their infield was stifled by an established double play combination.

“I figured I’d get a chance," he said. "If anybody could make it, I could make it. If I’d gotten with some other club, I’d have been the main shortstop, but the Giants had a tough combination: Alvin Dark at short and Eddie Stanky at second. It’s pretty tough to break into a lineup like that. I was a rookie and didn’t know the club, didn’t know the players. So I just sat there and waited.”

Wilson would find tremendous success in the Pacific Coast League, swatting over 200 hits during five different seasons between 1949-1954. A notorious spray hitter, teams tried to employ a shift on him while batting left-handed, moving the infielders to cover the hole between third base and short stop. The effort proved futile as Wilson continued to rattle the veterans of the PCL.

The gifted shortstop appeared in four East-West All-Star games in the Negro Leagues alongside Hall of Famers Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Leon Day, Monte Irvin and Willie Wells.

After his baseball career, he found success working at a car dealership in Portland.

I had the good fortune of being able to interview Wilson in 2008 on the telephone. He gave me about an hour of his time talking about a young Willie Mays and his teammates Piper Davis and Ray Dandridge. He was humble and gracious, playing down his achievements and yet so willing to highlight the strengths of the greats that he played with. I was so captivated by the interview that I forgot to start my tape recorder. Future attempts to interview Wilson proved futile and I am left with the fleeting memories of an evening phone call between Wilson and myself.

As the San Francisco Giants attempt to lock up their first World Series championship since moving from New York, Wilson's death marks the third former New York Giant in as many weeks and leaves 37 living players who donned the uniform in the Polo Grounds.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Review - Black Barons of Birmingham: The South's Greatest Negro League Team and Its Players - Larry Powell

"Black Barons of Birmingham: The South's Greatest Negro League Team and Its Players "
Larry Powell
McFarland Publishing, 2009
220 pages

Hall of Fame icons Willie Mays and Satchel Paige resonate deeply with baseball fans, as both were prime examples of perfection at their respective positions. They both share a common bond, as they played for one of the Negro Leagues most storied franchises, the Birmingham Black Barons. University of Alabama professor Larry Powell provides not only a history of this Southern staple of Negro League Baseball, but first hand narratives from the players who lived to tell it.

Staring in 1920, Birmingham was home for such Negro League greats as Mule Suttles, Willie Wells, Bill Foster, Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, Piper Davis, Artie Wilson, Charley Pride and Dan Bankhead who was the first African-American pitcher in Major League baseball. The team was a fixture in an area that had very few options for African American athletes and fans. They provided hope and entertainment for many during the Depression and Jim-Crow segregation.

Birmingham's consistent presence in black baseball allows Powell to take the reader on the roller coaster ride that was Negro League Baseball, as the league peaked and then tried to hold on as key players were scooped up by Major League Baseball. He separates the book into pre and post-era integration, as the Black Barons were one of the few Negro League teams that played from the inception of the Negro National League in 1920 and survived until the Negro Leagues complete demise in 1960. This gives Powell the opportunity to isolate the perspective on how the league changed once the door opened to Major League Baseball.

The book is dominated by the interviews of the living Black Barons, most who played after 1950 when the league was considered less than Major League caliber. Such is the function of writing a narrative on the Negro Leagues in 2009, as there are only a few surviving players from the 1930's and 1940's. Many of the teams had disbanded and Major League Baseball was raiding the top talent of the league. While the competition may not have been as strong in the heyday of players like Davis, Paige and Suttles, their stories share the same hopes of making it big, the conflicts of playing for little pay versus working in local steel mills, and persevering in spite of the strong arm of the Jim Crow laws in the segregated South.

You will be intrigued by the tales of the play of these great men, and moved by their experiences of fighting against segregation to play baseball. You will discover names of the greats that you never saw play, and by the end of the book you will wish you had been there to see them. These are the stories of the Birmingham Black Barons, and they are the ones that our future generations need to hear.