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Satchel Paige and other Negro leagues stars played at Yankee Stadium in the 1930s, during World War II and after the majors were integrated. (Associated Press, via National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

A few days ago my phone rang, and when I picked it up there was the voice of Wanda Pearson.  Wanda is the gatekeeper of the AFRO, whether you are calling on the phone or attempting to gain admission.  To get past Wanda without the right credentials or reason is like trying to recreate the Normandy Invasion.

The reason for the call was for me to decide if I wanted to speak with some lady who was trying to reach me.  I always return calls but, to be honest, I would just as soon take castor oil.

The caller was Vonnya Pettigrew, whom I found out is the president and CEO of The Root Branch Film Academy.  She wanted me to address a group who was working on a project.

The lure of my recliner and the promise of a nap suggested she had no chance.  Then she uttered the magic word, “kids.”  When it comes to kids, I am all in.  I took the bait.

I was accompanied by Mrs. L, who took the wheel.  This saved me from getting into a cussing match with every nimrod who drives worse than me and happened to be in my way at the time.

When we arrived, we passed through the guard station that resembled Homeland Security, and Ms. Pettigrew picked us up and delivered us to the kids.

We were introduced to each kid and told of their assignment.  There was Kyan Burris, One Room School House; Kiongozi Owomale, Freedom Statue; Ke’arie Young, Reginald F. Lewis; Sydney Thomas, Harriet Tubman; and Kyree’ Chichester, Negro Baseball League.

Sydney Thomas was the only girl in the group, and it was pointed out that she was from out of town, spending the summer with her grandma.  I realized from her questions that she was very bright.  Her topic of Harriet Tubman stirred me to mention that I once did a paper on Tubman, too (she wasn’t very impressed).

Since the Negro Leagues was my reason for being there, Kyree’ Chichester was seated next to me.  This young man was very bright but never spoke above a whisper.  Now, my hearing is such that I wouldn’t hear a freight train passing through my bedroom at 3 a.m.  However, I answered what I thought were his questions and since he wasn’t asking to borrow any money, all went well.

To put a little in the day, I decided to share a few tongue-in-cheek sayings about some of the players. I hope you will enjoy them.

It was said of “Cool Papa” Bell that he could walk into his hotel room, hit the light switch and be in bed before the room got dark.  Satchel Paige said, “Bell hit a line drive past him on the mound and got hit by the ball sliding into second.”

“Satchel” had so much control he could throw his pitches over a match book cover for a strike.

Although “Satchel” is the most memorable, “Smokey” Joe Williams was reputed to throw so hard that blind people would go out to the park just to listen to him pitch.
The list is too lengthy to put on this page, but the best thing is for me, it was time well spent.