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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rob Neyer: “42” - A Rogues Gallery

Good stuff from Rob here…

The new movie about Jackie Robinson tells many lies, as all such movies do. The great majority of people who see 42 will assume that it’s telling the truth, because the great majority of viewers won’t bother to marshal any facts that would suggest anything else.

I don’t actually want to get into all the lies today. I do want to write about 42’s villains, and there are more than a few.

There are plenty of anonymous villains—the filling-station attendant, the desk agent at the New Orleans airport, the sheriff in Florida, the fan in the stands who sets a terrible example for his son—all of whom typify the sort of casual racism that Jackie Robinson and millions of others faced every damn day in that era. I will note that most of these incidents are rooted in specific things that really happened to Robinson, or were said to have happened.

But the movie also features some distinctly non-anonymous villains; none of them are alive today, but most of them probably have descendants walking among us, and I think it’s worth telling a bit more of their stories. So I’d like to run through those I can remember, roughly in the order in which they show up.

...As for Walker, he never wrote a memoir; nor, as near as I can tell, was he ever interviewed at length before his death in 1982. There’s nothing here in my library, anyway. And the fact that Rickey traded him after the ‘47 season has always been submitted as proof of Walker’s continuing prejudice. However, it might just be more proof that Rickey was a shrewd judge of talent, as Walker’s major-league career ended just two years later.

According to Roger Kahn’s book, The Era, Walker wanted out of Brooklyn because he thought having a black teammate would hurt his business back home. Many years later, he told Kahn, “That’s why I started that thing. It was the dumbest thing I ever did in my life. Would you tell everybody that I’m deeply sorry?”

It does seem that almost everyone closely associated with Jackie Robinson came to respect and admire him. And that most of those who were initially so resistant to playing with him later came to regret it.

Repoz Posted: April 16, 2013 at 07:25 PM | 38 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. Mike Webber Posted: April 16, 2013 at 08:34 PM (#4416235)
Another fine article from Rob.
In the article he mentions other than a short interview by Roger Kahn in The Era, there appears to be no interviews with Dixie Walker later in his life. Anyone here aware of such an interview?
   2. bobm Posted: April 16, 2013 at 09:49 PM (#4416365)
   3. puck Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:08 PM (#4416390)
One good thing about the movie is that it seems to be bringing out a lot of good history articles. Or at least it's gotten me to notice them.

Neyer quotes from Allen Barra in the article regarding Ben Chapman. Barra's article just hit the Atlantic, it's also pretty good.

   4. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:16 PM (#4416401)
The new movie about Jackie Robinson tells many lies, as all such movies do. The great majority of people who see 42 will assume that it’s telling the truth, because the great majority of viewers won’t bother to marshal any facts that would suggest anything else.

This is why I almost never see biopics. I assume great creative license has been taken and so it's like an hour of homework after the movie to figure out what the real story was. No thanks. I actually saw - shame alert - Olympus Has Fallen this weekend. No need to fact check that piece of garbage.
   5. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: April 16, 2013 at 11:17 PM (#4416490)
Man, I think I'd rather do the homework.
   6. cardsfanboy Posted: April 17, 2013 at 12:33 AM (#4416527)
Excellent article. Should be read by any casual baseball fans who see this movie and want to continue to villify everyone. People do change, and as a reminder, that these type of movies do take some liberties.

Edit: and this article is a reminder that sabr is baseball history research, not just stats.
   7. Rob_Wood Posted: April 17, 2013 at 02:58 AM (#4416547)

Bobby Bragan talked about his experiences at a SABR convention. By all accounts he quickly realized the error of his initial feelings about Jackie Robinson. He was well known as a fair-minded manager and executive for the rest of his life in baseball.
   8. bjhanke Posted: April 17, 2013 at 06:17 AM (#4416559)
I'm inclined to believe the comments about MLB guys who started out as Jackie-taunting racists, but got over it later in life. I got to watch the same thing happen in college. I went to Vanderbilt from 1965-1968. Vandy was, at this time, trying to integrate the SEC, which had never had even one black varsity athlete in the conference's history in any sport. Vandy had brought in two black basketball players: Godfrey Dillard from Michigan and Perry Wallace, from Nashville Pearl high school. Dillard got his knee destroyed in practice and never played in a game, so Perry had to carry the load himself. Other teams' fans would come into Vandy for a game and sneeringly ask us whether our hot new center was majoring in Phys. Ed. or Basket Weaving. We would tell them, "Electrical Engineering. And, just to ask, how many of YOUR basketball players could major in EE - at Vanderbilt?" The SEC, at the time, consisted of Vandy, Tulane, and a bunch of state schools. I'm sure some of their basketball players could have majored in EE at Vandy, but not many. Anyway, the point got made - Perry Wallace was NOT some stupid guy with great athletic ability that the college was trying to find a way to keep academically eligible. He was majoring in EE - at Vandy.

That was really just a wakeup all for the out-of-towners. What was educational was watching the responses of Vandy's own students. They were all behind Perry, of course, because he was the star of the basketball team, one of the two best centers in the conference (Dan Issel). They'd say they were not racists because they supported Perry, but add, "as for those niggers, though...." Slowly that changed to "maybe all those black people aren't so bad." Then, "Maybe black people aren't any worse than the rest of us." Then Martin Luther King got shot, in Memphis, and the Governor of Tennessee called out the National Guard and put a 6pm curfew down in Nashville, backed by a bunch of soldiers and tanks in Memorial Park, right in front of the replica of the Parthenon. A lot of the Vandy students stopped wondering whether blacks counted as "real people" or not.

But this took years. Guys who I had known as a freshman were still not completely sure about blacks when I was a senior. But they were a lot closer to sanity than they had been as freshmen, or as their parents likely still were. Dixie Walker and Ben Chapman didn't get quite so large a dose as the Vandy students did, because MLK didn't get shot. But I imagine they went through the same process as they got to know more and more black baseball players. The point is that you don't just go to bed a racist and wake up in favor of civil rights. It takes time for a bias that strong to go away. Whether you want to cut Walker and Chapman a break for that, I don't know. But I do know that the process isn't instantaneous. It takes time to make a tolerant white person out of a racist. MLB players are public figures. If they don't change quickly, people notice. But, really, it's just people being people.

Oh, BTW, in case you read a bio of Perry or something, he did not end up as an Electrical Engineer. He became a lawyer for the Justice Department. And yes, I still feel sorry for any racist lawyer who went into court to argue a civil rights case against Perry Wallace. I got to meet Perry a few times (which is why I feel secure calling him "Perry"). He was very easy-going on the surface, but there was a will and determination just under the surface that Jackie Robinson would be hard-pressed to match. Perry knew what he was doing, what the cost was going to be, and what the limits were on what methods he could use to fight back.

One amusing side story. Vandy's yearbook had a "Greek" section, with photos and write-ups of the fraternities and sororities. Perry and some other black students, realizing that there were NO black people in the actual frats, got the administration to accept them as a "fraternity" (males AND females, which was not done at the time), under the name "African-American Association." The Greek section listed the frats in order according to the Greek alphabet. Alpha, Alpha, Alpha. So you'd see the big title page "Greeks!", turn the page, and see a giant group photo of all the blacks in the A-A A. I think some of the frats may have broken their own color walls after that. I, personally, still get a quick chuckle whenever I look at that yearbook. In fact, if I get down on life or something, it's one of the things I use to get my mood elevated. - Brock Hanke
   9. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 17, 2013 at 07:45 AM (#4416572)
Brock, that's a terrific post. There were variants of that story on every southern campus in the 60's and 70's, and I'm sure on many northern campuses during that same time and before. In my freshman and sophomore years at Duke (62-63 and 63-64), the (all-white) basketball team was in the final four both times, and got eliminated in the semis and then the finals, first by a team featuring four black starters (Loyola of Chicago) and then by UCLA, with two black stars (Walt Hazzard and Kenny Washington). I was watching the games in one of the student lounges, and whenever one of the black players went to the line for a foul shot and had the camera focused on him, you would have thought you were at a Klan rally, with cries of "jungle bunny", "n!gger" and all the other variants of the day filling the room all during the shot. It was one of the ugliest scenes I've ever witnessed in my life, one that Ben Chapman himself could have joined in without missing a beat.

The point is that you don't just go to bed a racist and wake up in favor of civil rights. It takes time for a bias that strong to go away.

But then yadda yadda yadda and five years later, after King had been assassinated, the campus came to a virtual halt with an interracial vigil on behalf of racial justice. In Duke's case the transformation had little to do with athletic integration, since at that point none of the star athletes were black, but within those five years the racial atmosphere on campus had changed from night to day, probably more on the surface that underneath, but it was an enormous shift nevertheless.

And you could see the changes taking place on the one-on-one level nearly every week. I remember during one of the first CORE meetings we held early in the 1963-64 term, a group of YAF types came in to heckle us with thinly veiled racist comments, led by one particularly loud son of a Birmingham steel magnate. And yet by the end of that school year, this same unreconstructed rebel was marching with us in civil rights demonstrations, having seen the light in dozens of one-on-one conversations with people who weren't willing to just write him off as a redneck. He was practically disowned by his family back home in Birmingham, but he stuck with his guns and didn't back down.

The bottom line is that Brock's point is 100% true that all this change didn't occur miraculously overnight, but was the result of countless thousands of lawsuits and demonstrations, TV footage of racism's ugly face in town after town, a few seminal figures like Marshall, Robinson and King leading by example, many more local leaders standing up when the TV cameras were nowhere to be seen, and many millions of conversations like the ones we had with that Birmingham student. It's an evolution that continues today, and one that I'm sure will continue long after we're all dead.
   10. Joey B. has reignited his October #Natitude Posted: April 17, 2013 at 08:11 AM (#4416579)
I actually saw - shame alert - Olympus Has Fallen this weekend. No need to fact check that piece of garbage.

You're comparing a fictional action/thriller/fantasy to a biographical film? That's pretty weird.
   11. bjhanke Posted: April 17, 2013 at 08:38 AM (#4416588)
Jolly - Thanks for the compliment! If anything you had it rougher at Duke than Vandy had it three years later. At Vandy, no one ever yelled any racist comments at our own guy, or at any opponent from another conference. Part of that, of course, was that WE had the black guy, but part of that is just the movement in culture from 62 to 65. One of the biggest hurdles Perry had to clear was that, at the time, SEC schools hired their own local referees, with the result that it was really hard to win on the road. Perry did go through some games where he was fouled - and HARD - maybe 30 times in the game, about five of which actually got called. But he managed not to get hurt, which would probably have provoked some sort of incident when the team that had hurt him had to play in Nashville. Oh, and I should correct a mistake in my comment. The big city park in Nashville is called "Centennial Park", not "Memorial." - Brock Hanke
   12. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 17, 2013 at 08:40 AM (#4416589)
Um, ok.

1. In the opening of the film, in very large letters, it says "This movie is based on a true story". Based on, not word-for-word. We can't know enough about any event to be able to make a 100% accuate movie; if we did, no one would go see it because there would be nothing new to see. This isn't "lying", it's filling in the blanks. (The tunnel incident probably didn't happen, but do you refuse to believe a conversation like that did happen between Rickey and Robinson?)

2. The movie was about '46-47; whether the people depicted changed later doesn't matter to the story, this is the way they acted then. Further, I doubt Robinson was thinking "That's OK; Chapman's going to laugh with a black man in 40 years" during the racist diatribe.

Given those things, the Slaughter incident is the only one listed that deviates from the truth (and even contemporary reporters thought Slaughter did it on purpose). Asserting anything else is, well, a lie.
   13. bjhanke Posted: April 17, 2013 at 08:44 AM (#4416592)
I just checked Perry Wallace in Wikipedia, just to make sure I was telling truths. There's an oddity there; Wiki says that Perry enrolled at Vandy in 1966, but was the first black player in the SEC starting in 1967. That's not exactly correct. At the time, the NCAA did not allow freshman to play with the varsity. Perry was the starting center on the Vandy freshman team in 1966/67, and the starting center on the varsity in 1967 and onwards. - Brock
   14. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 17, 2013 at 08:50 AM (#4416594)
1. In the opening of the film, in very large letters, it says "This movie is based on a true story". Based on, not word-for-word. We can't know enough about any event to be able to make a 100% accuate movie; if we did, no one would go see it because there would be nothing new to see. This isn't "lying", it's filling in the blanks. (The tunnel incident probably didn't happen, but do you refuse to believe a conversation like that did happen between Rickey and Robinson?)

2. The movie was about '46-47; whether the people depicted changed later doesn't matter to the story, this is the way they acted then. Further, I doubt Robinson was thinking "That's OK; Chapman's going to laugh with a black man in 40 years" during the racist diatribe.


All true but hopefully this film spurs people to learn more about the people in the film rather than simply saying "oh, that's what that person was like. End of story." I think Rob is helping to fill in the blanks a bit here. It's like how some TV shows (Dexter, The Following are two I know of) that encourage you to log on and interact with other fans during the show. It is an opportunity to use the film as a jumping off point.

In your example about Chapman I'm sure Robinson wasn't thinking that. At the same time it's a microcosm of how we as a society have evolved, how people can change and how Robinson helped to influence that change.
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 17, 2013 at 09:21 AM (#4416610)
Its great to see the evolution of people over time. I think we're seeing it today with gay rights. Any time you're exposed to people of a group you discriminate against, you're going to soften your stance.

Its why I worry though that the increasing class divide/racial divide is going to lead to a backsliding of race relations in this country. If all white people know about black people is what they see on the evening news, those racist biases are going to creep right back up again.

Anyway, terrific stuff from Rob. Great to get a more complete picture of some of the more complex figures from 42.
   16. Ron J2 Posted: April 17, 2013 at 09:29 AM (#4416618)
#4 My sisters actually contemplated vandalism after seeing Olympus Has Fallen. They wanted to write, "Worst movie ever" on the advertising for it outside the theater. They figured that if push came to shove no jury would convict.
   17. Bourbon Samurai Posted: April 17, 2013 at 09:37 AM (#4416626)
Good story. The film is pretty ok, if you haven't seen it.

Interesting that he notes that the actor playing Chapman isn't as handsome as him- that's Alan Tudyk, who is normally quite handsome and pleasant, but as soon as he appeared on screen I noticed how sallow and puffy he looked- deliberate choices I am sure.
   18. DL from MN Posted: April 17, 2013 at 10:18 AM (#4416654)
he did not end up as an Electrical Engineer. He became a lawyer


Good story but I knew there wouldn't be a happy ending.
   19. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: April 17, 2013 at 10:30 AM (#4416666)
#8 and #9 are fascinating - really interesting recollections, thank you so much for sharing!
   20. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 17, 2013 at 10:55 AM (#4416691)
There's a great article in today's Times about the broadcaster Bob Wolff, who at 92 has donated his entire broadcasting career archive to the Library of Congress, which is digitalizing it and making it all available to the public via its website. Wolff started his career in 1939, and according to him, he saved "everything", including interviews with the likes of Robinson, Ted Williams, Ruth, Cobb and Speaker.

What makes this story germane to "42" is the snippet from an interview Wolff had with Robinson at the end of his rookie season. It gives us some insight both about Robinson's thoughts on the nature of prejudice and perhaps also a bit about the sort of restrictions he was still under.

[In the interview] Robinson gives fielding tips — keep the glove low, brushing against the dirt — and, in a group interview after his groundbreaking rookie season, offers a rather benign comparison when asked about the abuse he took from Southern players.

“I went to U.C.L.A.,” Robinson says. “U.S.C. is our archrival across town. Suppose I suddenly had to go over and root for U.S.C. during a crucial game between U.S.C. and U.C.L.A. I mean, I think that’s the same way that these fellows felt when they came up out of the South. They have certain things instilled with them in the South, and they had to come up, all of a sudden, and were pushed in with me. At first they didn’t know just how to take it, but as the season progressed, there was certainly no feeling at all between us and we got along swell.”


Here's a link to the page that has the audio and photos of Wolff's interviews with Robinson, Cobb, Mantle, Ruth, Foxx, and Speaker. Needless to say, from a career that goes back to 1939, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

A Broadcaster Shares His Audio Archive
   21. WSPanic Posted: April 17, 2013 at 10:57 AM (#4416697)
Saw it last night. I would have enjoyed it more if Jackie never got married. Too much love story.

I enjoyed Red Barber's portrayal in the movie, but he seemed to be let off the hook pretty easy. Maybe it's not true, but I was always led to believe that Barber threatened to quit upon hearing that Rickey was bringing Robinson to Brooklyn. Why would that not be portrayed? Would have been pretty easy. Also would've shown interaction between Rickey and Barber - which was also absent from the film.
   22. Moeball Posted: April 17, 2013 at 11:19 AM (#4416728)
Further evidence of how widespread Jackie's influence was - a young hotshot high school basketball prodigy by the name of Lew Alcindor decided to go to UCLA not only because John Wooden had just won back-to-back NCAA championships, but largely because Jackie Robinson told him what a great school it was for a person of color to go to, both in and out of the athletic world. Getting Alcindor to come to UCLA dramatically improved Wooden's ability to recruit nationally and the rest, as they say, is history.
   23. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 17, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4416735)
I enjoyed Red Barber's portrayal in the movie, but he seemed to be let off the hook pretty easy. Maybe it's not true, but I was always led to believe that Barber threatened to quit upon hearing that Rickey was bringing Robinson to Brooklyn. Why would that not be portrayed?

In his book 1947: When All Hell Broke Loose In Baseball, Barber had a chapter entitled "Before The Mirror", in which he says that his threat to quit was voiced only to his wife Lylah, on an evening in February of 1945, just hours after Rickey told him about his intent to hire a yet-unknown black player. His wife's response was "You don't have to quit tonight. You can do that tomorrow....Let's have a martini." Barber never made the threat to Rickey, and of course by morning he had come to his senses and never made an issue of it.
   24. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: April 17, 2013 at 11:27 AM (#4416744)
I would have enjoyed it more if Jackie never got married were gay.


That's what you meant, isn't it?

You people & your agendas ...
   25. GregD Posted: April 17, 2013 at 11:27 AM (#4416745)
I just checked Perry Wallace in Wikipedia, just to make sure I was telling truths. There's an oddity there; Wiki says that Perry enrolled at Vandy in 1966, but was the first black player in the SEC starting in 1967. That's not exactly correct. At the time, the NCAA did not allow freshman to play with the varsity. Perry was the starting center on the Vandy freshman team in 1966/67, and the starting center on the varsity in 1967 and onwards. - Brock
The great Perry Wallace! The great Pearl High! I talked with his h.s. coach Cornelius Ridley a few times over the years, interesting guy. I was way way too young to evaluate the claims, but the 66 Pearl team with Wallace that went undefeated and was the first all-black team to be allowed to play for (and win) the state championship was often called by the old-timers the best high school team ever from Middle Tennessee, though the real old-timers said the Ronnie Lawson Sr.-led pre-integration teams that won the black national title were even better.

I assume the wiki references is missing the word "varsity." That's the record Wallace broke in fall 67--first black varsity athlete in SEC history in any sport. I assume he was the first black freshman-team athlete in SEC history in 66, but don't know if there were others in other sports.
   26. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: April 17, 2013 at 11:37 AM (#4416761)
I was way way too young to evaluate the claims, but the 66 Pearl team with Wallace that went undefeated and was the first all-black team to be allowed to play for (and win) the state championship


Makes me wonder what the story was in my home state, Arkansas. As it happens, just a couple of days ago I came across my 4th-grade yearbook (for the '68-'69 school year) & saw that the high school basketball team's very successful season ended with a tournament loss to the crosstown black school; I assume the latter would've advanced up the state ladder.

I've always been curious about the fact that while desegregation didn't kick in statewide (including at my school, in the Texas-Louisiana corner) till the '70-'71 school year (as I gather was true of the entire South), a handful of black students did attend school with us white kids. From looking at that yearbook, I'd say there was an average of at least 1 per grade. I don't have any earlier yearbooks, so I don't know when that would've started; I know I didn't have any black classmates in 1st or 2nd grade.
   27. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 17, 2013 at 11:45 AM (#4416776)
BTW here's a book on top of my reading pile: Benching Jim Crow: The Rise and Fall of the Color Line in Southern College Sports, 1890-1980 It's got several pages devoted to Perry Wallace, devotes chapters to all the conferences and colleges in question, and at 374 pages is about as comprehensive a history of the subject as we're likely to get in a long time.
   28. GregD Posted: April 17, 2013 at 11:46 AM (#4416780)
There's such variation. In East Tennessee and some other parts of the Upper South, there was immediate integration after Brown I and other places that planned to implement it right away but stopped after Brown II ("all deliberate speed.") This is one of the tragedies of Brown II, that it made it politically impossible for county commissioners to act. In parts of East Tennessee, county commissioners were turning against segregated schools not out of humanism but out of cheapness. Running segregated schools in areas with a small black population was expensive, even if the schools were underfunded. It was simpler to just fold the small number of students into the other schools. At least one East Tennessee district integrated after the black school burned down, and the commissioners told the populace they could either accept integration or face a tax hike to pay for building a new school.

Brown II stopped that momentum, but some of the East Tennessee districts went ahead and desegregated in the early 60s, so there were black players for mostly white schools at least in 1965 and maybe earlier. But black schools weren't part of TSSAA until 65 or so, so 66 was the first year schools like Pearl could compete. I could be off a little bit. Pearl famously played the city's first integrated basketball game against Father Ryan (the first private high school in the city and one of the first in the South to integrate.)

The busing decision in Nashville came in the 1970s--1974 if I remember--and the court jurisdiction over the zones is what finally ended the shenanigans and created integrated schools (and the city's many segregation academies run by Church of Christ and Baptist churches) and the explosion of population over the county line in Brentwood. (Since Nashville has Metro government, people had to cross county not city lines to get into different school jurisdictions.)

But there are different stories in different states and towns. In Kentucky my family remembers integrated schools by late 50s--so perhaps right after Brown?--and played on integrated high school teams by the mid-1960s without it seeming remarkable, even though Kentucky had been segregated. But I suspect the story went differently in Louisville and Lexington and perhaps Bowling Green.
   29. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 17, 2013 at 11:47 AM (#4416782)
I've always been curious about the fact that while desegregation didn't kick in statewide (including at my school, in the Texas-Louisiana corner) till the '70-'71 school year (as I gather was true of the entire South)

Court orders, followed by implementation. Before that, inertia and white resistance had pretty much kept any desegregation to a minimum.
   30. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: April 17, 2013 at 11:53 AM (#4416793)
Yeah, Greg, in northern Arkansas (of course, when you grow up about 18 miles from the Lousiana state border, it's pretty much all northern Arkansas) some school districts integrated immediately after Brown, though if those parts then were like they are now, not many black students would've been involved in the first place. Central High in Little Rock, of course, was '57.

Just as intriguing to me as the presence of a handful of black kids in my otherwise white school in the late '60s is the fact that a decade & a half later, one county over, an all-black school district was operating. The county in question had probably about 20,000 residents & at least 7 separate school districts. Absolutely insane.

I assume consolidation has since remedied that situation, which for the time wasn't particularly unusual as far as the proliferation of school districts went. (When I was an editor at the daily newspaper in Little Rock in the '90s, Arkansas' 75 counties included something like 320 school districts. My county, with less than 10,000 residents, had 3, though at least 2 of those are now consolidated.)
   31. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: April 17, 2013 at 12:34 PM (#4416846)
Saw it last night. I would have enjoyed it more if Jackie never got married. Too much love story.
This is one of the rare instances where the Hollywood Actress is not as attractive as the real-life person they're portraying. Look up old pictures of Rachel Robinson. My goodness.

Hell, even in her later years she's still beautiful.
   32. bjhanke Posted: April 17, 2013 at 12:44 PM (#4416868)
#25 (Greg) - Yeah. The Wiki article just says that he enrolled in Vandy in 1966, and then was the first black player in the SEC in 1967. This can lead to the impression that Vandy had to, essentially, redshirt him for the 66/67 year, presumably to get his academic house in order. I mentioned that he was on the freshman team to counter that question. Also, Vandy was very careful to see that its students got all the info right when they brought Perry aboard, so I do know that no black had ever played freshman team in any sport, as well as varsity.

The 65/66 Pearl High School team was famous, largely because Perry made high school All-American at center in spite of being only 6' 6" which was, even then, a wee tad short for a center. What Perry had was the shoulders of a water polo player, the hands of a baseball pitcher, the legs of a high jumper, and a version of what Bill Russell had - the ability to outthink opponents when it came time to deal with rebounds, and always end up in position, and always know who to throw the outlet pass to. Perry himself described the Pearl team as "four guys who could score 20 points from the half court line and me." There was no 3-point shot then, or they'd have REALLY cleaned up. This did have a bad side effect on Perry; he couldn't shoot. He'd never needed to. His teammates all could shoot, and he could score 20 points just on rebound putbacks, so there was no reason for him to ever venture 10 feet away from the hoop. He was drafted by the NBA, but didn't make it. He was too short for a NBA center, and couldn't shoot, so you couldn't convert him to a power forward. What really killed his offense was the dunk rule. The NCAA put in a rule requiring a dunk to come down to the hoop on a diagonal, no vertical dunks. This was a desperate step to stop Lew Alcindor, but it didn't hurt him. It did take away Perry's one shot. High as he could jump, his dunks came straight down. Without that rule, he might have been even better than Dan Issel.

#27 (Jolly) - Who is the author of that book? Me and Amazon are going to have a good time tonight if you tell me. - Brock
   33. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 17, 2013 at 12:53 PM (#4416878)
#27 (Jolly) - Who is the author of that book? Me and Amazon are going to have a good time tonight if you tell me. - Brock

Charles Martin is the author, and the Amazon link is right there on #27. But here it is again....

Benching Jim Crow: The Rise and Fall of the Color Line in Southern College Sports, 1890-1980
   34. GregD Posted: April 17, 2013 at 12:53 PM (#4416879)
As I'm sure you know, Brock, the great Ted McClain had a fine NBA/ABA career off that great Pearl team. Long ago, I knew Melvin Smith, sixth man on that team.
   35. just plain joe Posted: April 17, 2013 at 01:06 PM (#4416892)
But there are different stories in different states and towns. In Kentucky my family remembers integrated schools by late 50s--so perhaps right after Brown?--and played on integrated high school teams by the mid-1960s without it seeming remarkable, even though Kentucky had been segregated. But I suspect the story went differently in Louisville and Lexington and perhaps Bowling Green.


I grew up in a small town in western Kentucky and the schools were beginning to integrate in the late fifties, with full integration by the time I began junior high in 1963. As others have said, this was probably more due to economics than anything else, as the black schools were in terrible condition and would have required extensive modernization to remain usable. I played baseball and basketball in high school and it was rare when a basketball opponent had no black players, even some of the small Catholic schools would have blacks on the roster. In high school baseball I only remember playing against a couple of teams that had one or two black players. Nearly all of our opponents were from cities or counties with one or two public high schools; I suspect that in more populated areas of the state that school district borders were drawn so as to funnel most black students to one or two schools.
   36. GregD Posted: April 17, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4416908)
KET says Russellville, Prestonsburg, Owensboro, Wayne County, and Lexington desegregate in 1955, Louisville in 1956 (and Sturgis where there are massive protests against it) and the KHSAA in 1957. Louisville though maintains much (though not complete) segregation by different districts and the busing/merger order isn't until 1975. And in 1976 Kentucky ratifies the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments! Go Cats!
   37. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 17, 2013 at 03:59 PM (#4417134)
If you get the Jim Crow book Andy mentioned @ 27, you may want to skip the hardback edition ($2,148 new; thanks algorithms...).
   38. BDC Posted: April 17, 2013 at 04:02 PM (#4417136)
These are fascinating sidelights on the integration of colleges and sports and college sports; thanks, all.

My experience is not as fascinating, but perhaps indicative. My father taught at Loyola of Chicago in the championship year, and since he was a speech teacher, the whole varsity basketball team took his course (deemed to be easy; well, maybe it was). Race never seemed to factor in his assessment of students. Mine was a pretty liberal family of origin.

In 1968, we moved to South Jersey, to one of the few integrated communities in an area geographically south of the Mason-Dixon line. I started high school in 1971, and there was enormous racial tension on our campus at first, but over the next few years, it dissipated, and sports was a factor. Since we had lots of both black and white kids at our school, it became a place where promising black middleschool athletes would move (everyone of any color has an aunt somewhere they can move in with) to play in the penumbra of the Philly and NYC media worlds. As a result, my high school was a serious athletic power for quite a while (runners-up in state basketball my senior year, '75, with the classic lineup of one white point guard and four tall black guys: though to be fair, the point guard was a hell of a player).

I then went to college at Michigan State (1975-79). As you might imagine, Michigan in 1975 was a racially-scarred place, thickly covered by memories of the 1960s Detroit riots. But (and here's where the North makes all the difference) it was also a place where guys like Bubba Smith and George Webster were living legends. And when our basketball team made its own championship run in 1979 (oddly enough, with a white point guard and four tall black guys) I never heard a single racist word directed at anybody, friend or opponent, by any of my otherwise dubiously-integrationist white Michigander friends. An interesting time to experience college and sports.

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