Sam Lacy (AFRO Photo)
In the effort of taking you through the journey of Sam Lacy, I find myself mixing tales of things I have shared, things I have witnessed and things he shared with me during some of our bonding times.
One of my favorite tales of his journey came after his induction into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame. The event was held in Las Vegas. The news of this invitation disturbed me more than a little because in the early years, Sam was addicted to the horses. It took some hard learned lessons for him to come to the realization that he had a problem.
After he had kicked the habit, so to speak, an occasional trip to the track provided him with recreation. Throw in a monthly poker game with the office gang, and his sweet tooth was satisfied. However, the attraction of Vegas gave me some consternation.
He found the many temptations to gamble amusing. At breakfast there were Keno sheets laid out beside your morning coffee. If you were bored in your room, there was a mini slot machine located in the bathroom, and there was the morning line for the racetrack posted in the elevator.
The part of the story I liked most was when he chuckled to himself over the fact that he was 75 years old, in a plush Vegas hotel, in a room that would satisfy most heads of state, lying in a king size bed, looking up at a mirror on the ceiling. Surely a case of mistaken identity.
Things quieted down for a spell, and suddenly we were in the ’90s and things started to pop. We were headed into the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier of Major League Baseball. Sam was there, and everybody wanted a piece of his story. Sam was fond of saying that his glorification was overrated because he was probably the only person left on the planet who was old enough to remember.
Among his invitations was a request to appear in a program at Frostburg State University. At this period in time I was not only his travel companion, I was his designated driver. The trip to Frostburg was a nightmare. I have no fondness for heights, and driving along a mountain road with no guardrails had me expecting a stroke at any minute. Unless you have experienced it, you cannot possibly know how it feels to be driving along a mountain highway looking down 500 feet to people’s homes.
To add to the mix, it was raining. About then, elevation started to haunt me. For a few minutes we were in this driving rain climbing a hill, and the next minute we were above the clouds. Folks if you wonder what the other side of a cloud looks like, believe me the experience is overrated.
When we reached our destination, I found out that the issue being discussed was the regrowth of America after WWII. There were three men in on this discussion, Pop, Shirley Povich (Washington Post columnist), and some other old dude. I couldn’t help thinking they should get this right, because they probably have the three oldest dudes in America giving them the 411.