By Tim Lacy, Special to the AFRO
Everybody in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area, whether you’re a baseball fan or not, are aware that the Washington Nationals are participating in the World Series for the first time in 95 years. The Nats have struggled year after year while their fans have remained loyal braving hot, cold, and wet weather to “Take me out to the ballgame!” It is fitting that they are finally being rewarded, and I love the slogan that graces the lips of every fan, “#FinishTheFight.”
I regret that my Pop, the honorable Sam Lacy, isn’t around to see them. For followers of the Lacy scribes, it is no secret that Sam was a die-hard baseball fan. Some of my fondest memories are born from his stories of his youth and baseball. As a kid, Sam and his cronies would gather in an alley behind the YMCA to pick sides before it was “GAME ON!” The next step was to hit the grass in center field at Griffith Stadium to shag fly balls. This led to a job selling goods in the stands. The baseball force was strong in Sam and during this process his future was being shaped.
Sam turned out to be an accomplished pitcher as a teen, and was often sought after by White teams to play for them. He was billed as an Algonquin Indian. This process was necessary because despite his straight hair and tint to his skin, he was still, “That colored boy.” He hit a roadblock when it came to away games because his mother would only let her son travel so far from the nest. With help from his brother and a promise to write every day, she gave in. The wind in Rhode Island had a pop fly dancing on the flight down and the result was a broken finger for Sam. When it was time to write his mom, Sam became a lefty.
As time passed, Sam found himself at a newspaper desk wondering why there were no Negros playing with the Whites. This led to his quest with Jackie Robinson. He, along with Wendell Smith and Branch Rickey kicked down the color barrier and opened the doors of Major League Baseball (MLB).
Washington media and fans put on a parade with the team so the public could view their heroes. With Sam’s connection as a sport’s writer, he was privy to some special attention. This allowed him to secure a prime spot along the parade route for his father. Pa was a Senators fan and there was no TV at the time, so this gave him an opportunity to get close to the players, some of whom he idolized. All was well until, while reaching out for a handshake, a player spat in his face. Jim Crow never rests.
Sam was 21 years old when the Senators/Nationals/Senators played the NY Giants in the World Series. Sam was in the Press Box representing the Washington Tribune, his job at the time.
Now that the Nats have returned to the big show, we can put to rest the saying, “Washington, first in peace, first in war, but last in the American league.”