Cecil and Josh

21 Jan

Newspapers across the country saw it as a human interest story about baseball; the Black Press saw it very differently.  With his team in a slump, New York Giants Manager Bill Terry brought in 13-year-old Cecil Terry to “bring the Giants some badly needed luck.”

Cecil Haley

Cecil Haley

The Associated Press said of Haley’s first day on the job:

“Cecil, a Negro mascot, was given a Giant uniform yesterday, allowed to sit in the dugout for the first time and promised a trip West if he’d bring the Giants some badly-needed luck.  The net result of his work?  Pirates 4, Giants 3.”

Very different stories appeared in the Black press.  The Washington Afro-American said:

“(O)rganized big leagues will have colored mascots but steadfastly refuse to accept them as players.  The proud lad sits under the bat rack in the Giants’ dugout, but to date, something must be wrong, because the Giants are hopelessly battling for fifth place.”

The New York Age said:

“Cecil Haley, New York Giants colored mascot, will know better when he grows older and tries to get a job playing for the same team.”

The same day that Haley appeared on the bench with the Giants, New York pitcher Carl Hubbell spoke with The Pittsburgh Courier about Josh Gibson:

“‘(H)e’s one of the greatest backstops in the history of baseball, I think…Boy–how he can throw!’ exclaimed Hubbell.

josh

“There seems to be nothing to it when he throws.  He just whips the ball down to second base like it had a string on it.  He’s great, I’m telling you.  Any team in the big leagues could use him right now.’

“But, with all that,’ said Hubbell, ‘the thing I like best about him is that he’s as fast as greased lightening.  You know, after a few years a catcher usually slows up considerably from bending down so much.  But that guy–why, he’s never slowed down.”

That summer, a new effort was underway to integrate baseball.  A petition drive led by the Young Communist League collected between 25,000 and 100,000 (reports varied) and delivered to National League President Ford Frick,  and Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis at the 1939 winter meeting in Cincinnati.

The Afro-American said Frick “avoided the issue by declaring that a ‘social problem’ was involved for which the big leagues were not responsible.”

There is no public record of the commissioner’s response.

Josh Gibson, with two-time Communist Vice-Presidential Candidate James W. Ford looking on, signs the 1939 petition to end racial discrimination in professional baseball.

I published a shorter version of this post on August 27, 2012.

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5 Responses to “Cecil and Josh”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A Thousand Words–Satch and Diz | Baseball History Daily - March 15, 2013

    […] This is the nature of man and the name of the game. I hope that one day Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro players who are not here only […]

  2. Fred Downer | Baseball History Daily - March 30, 2015

    […] by the West 11-8 on George “Mule” Suttles’ three-run home run after Webster McDonald walked Josh Gibson to face him—was […]

  3. “I mentioned Satchel and Josh and Cool Papa, I told Him he was Missing the boat” | Baseball History Daily - May 18, 2015

    […] support had generally been limited to socialist and communist organizations—the Young Communist League spent the summer of ’39 gathering signatures to present to Commissioner Lan….  But, in July of that year, the Illinois House of Representatives adopted a resolution which read […]

  4. “There’s one thing you mustn’t do when you get to New York” | Baseball History Daily - October 26, 2015

    […] Buckingham Hotel in St. Louis, he also boasted an impressive list of “finds” including Carl Hubbell, Chief Meyers, Hack Wilson and Larry […]

  5. Cum Posey’s “All-Americans” | Baseball History Daily - November 18, 2015

    […] Josh Gibson and Biz […]

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