We have all experienced the type of surprise when someone we hold in high esteem stumbles for some reason. After all, these are people we view as larger than life. Sam Lacy had a Hall of Fame career as a sports writer, but just like the rest of us, he had moments he would just as soon see go unnoticed. As one privy to those moments, I would like to share a few with you.
Sam had a second marriage, and my stepmom was of a very fair complexion. As was common back in those days, she could have easily passed for White. A sweeter person you have never met, but when she got riled, she had no problem letting you know she wasn’t happy.
Back in those days, there was a ferry boat that made an overnight trip from Hampton to Newport News, Va. It was an adventure to travel this way, and people often chose this mode of transportation as recreation. The only problem was Jim Crow was the captain of the ferry and there were color restrictions on this boat just as in the rest of the South.
I guess Sam had a brain lapse when he and Barbara showed up at the door of the restaurant for dinner. The host eyed Sam and Barbara and denied them entrance by citing the rule of “no colored allowed.” This message was for Sam, and he stepped aside to allow Barbara entry. Sam was beet red from embarrassment, but before he could react, Barbara spoke up: “This is my husband.” Without missing a beat, the host looked Barbara in the eye and said, “That’s your problem lady.”
Sam retreated back to his room to have a ham sandwich and humble pie for dinner.
When Sam got the nod from the Hall of Fame, a host of friends engaged reservations on planes, trains and automobiles. Washingtonians and Baltimoreans prepared to invade Cooperstown to support one of their own. Besides the museum, golf course, baseball stadium and hotel, there wasn’t a whole lot of Cooperstown left to house the cars and RVs that made the trip. You have to consider that there were a few other notables being inducted along with Sam, and they had a following also. The staff was busier than security at a rock concert trying to maintain traffic control.
Despite the bedlam, I rate that weekend as the crowning moment in my life. I got to play golf with some baseball Hall of Famers and even won a set of golf clubs and a crystal trophy.When the induction ceremonies took place, I was fortunate enough to have a spot close enough to shake hands with the inductees. Ex-Dodger great Don Newcombe introduced Sam, and when he was making his way to the podium, he tripped over a speaker and lay sprawled out on the stage. He wasn’t hurt, and as he got to his feet, Newcombe remarked that Sam was so anxious to get in he crawled into the Hall. The beet red complexion in Sam’s face was an indicator of his embarrassment. I guess everything comes with a price.