Posted tagged ‘baseball’

Baseball’s Lenny Green

May 5, 2011

When Lenny Green was traded to the Washington Senators from the Baltimore Orioles in June 1959 it inspired Afro-American reporter Sam Lacy to declare “the Washington Senators acquired their first ‘legitimate’ colored player early this week when they obtained Lenny Green.” While Green was not the first Black ball player to wear a Senator’s uniform, Lacy’s position more accurately summed up public opinion than fact. This was largely due to the late integration of the franchise.

According to David Evans’ article Late in the Game: the Integration of the Washington Senators, the color barrier of the Senators was not broken until September 6, 1954, when Carlos Paula trotted out to left field at Griffith Stadium. This was more than seven years after Jackie Robinson stepped onto the diamond for the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, as a Cuban, Carlos Paula was not fully accepted by many as representing an integrated Senators.

Paula’s addition to the Senators continued a long history of mining talent from the Caribbean and Central and South America that put Bobby Estalella in the outfield of Griffith Stadium in 1935. After Paula other black Cubans would be added to the team, but it was not until August 1, 1957, that the Senators signed their first African-American with Joe Black.

Black was a one-time star with the Brooklyn Dodgers who was described as brilliant in 1952, but by 1957 his career was clearly on the decline. His tenure with the Senators was short-lived. Black was released by Washington in November of 1957 after appearing in only seven games as pitcher. This prompted many fans to feel that Black’s signing was disingenuous and not a “‘real deal.”

Due largely to these factors, Lacy proudly proclaimed in the Afro-American that Lenny Green would be “accepted by [Washington’s] colored fans as the first bona-fide member of their race on the home roster.” And play he did. He had more playing time than he’d had with the Orioles (he had 190 at-bats the remainder of the 1959 season, batting .242 with two homers and 15 RBI) and he remained with the Senators through the 1960 season. When the Senators resettled in Minnesota as the Twins Green moved with them and spent another three-plus seasons with the Twins.

While in Washington Green resided at 730 Rock Creek Church Road, NW. He kept busy and had his own daily sports program — when the team was at home — on Washington radio station WUST. He was also lucky to avoid serious injury on September 18, 1959, when his car and a Fire Department ambulance collided at Sherman Avenue and Columbia Road. The impact forced the ambulance into three parked cars. The worst Green received was a speeding ticket.

A more detailed biography on Lenny Green along with his career history can be found at the Baseball Biography Project.

Lenny Green in 1960

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Little League Returns to Ward 1

March 8, 2011

Signs, like this one outside the Park View Recreation Center, are showing up around the community to announce the Banneker Little League

Last week, Supreme H. Aquil, President of the Banneker City Little League, announced to the community via area listservs that after more than 10 years of no active Little League in Ward 1, there would again be a league forming to serve the community. Older residents may recall that the District once had a very active youth baseball program in the mid-Twentieth Century.

In addition to a first rate baseball program, the league will also have an all-girls softball program in addition to offering free year round after-school tutoring and test prep. It also has intramural swimming, kickball, and wiffleball teams in the winter. You can find out more at their Web site (www.BannekerCityLL.org). If you are interested in volunteering there is also information there for that as well.

Interested parents and children can still register. Late registration began on Tuesday, March 1, 2011. Registration for the Spring 2011 season is $75.00 and the League offers scholarships for those who cannot otherwise afford it, as well as a $5.00 discount for each player a registrant refers and they sign-up. No child will be turned away.

The 2011 schedule is below:

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Baseball, Park View, and the Suburban League

April 6, 2010

A popular past time in pre-World War I Washington was baseball. Still, to call the sport popular is misleading. There was probably not a neighborhood or section of the city that wasn’t caught up in the game. Numerous amateur leagues sprang up across the area — such as the Sunday School League, the Railroad League, the Marquette League, and the Suburban League to name a few.

The District Suburban League organized sometime in mid-1908 with only four teams: Brightwood, Woodburn, Park View, and Petworth. The schedule for that season ran from September 1-24. The 1908 season was successful enough that it formally organized the following year and considered expanding from four teams to either six or eight teams. The four leading contenders for inclusion were Mouth Pleasant, Silver Springs, Takoma, and Rockville.

The Park View baseball diamond was likely located on this site, once part of Schuetzen Park

When the 1909 opening day began on May 3, the decision had been to only expand to six teams. Added to the original four teams were those from Takoma and the Reed Athletic Club. The season opener was between Park View and Brightwood at Park View’s diamond located at Georgia Avenue and Kenyon. In looking at real estate atlases of the period, the ball field would have to had been located on the east side of Georgia Avenue between Kenyon and Irving.

Southeast corner of Kenyon and Georgia Avenue today

The pairing of Park View and Brightwood for the opening of the season proved portentous, as both teams battled it out for the league Pennant that year. When Brightwood beat Park View with a score of 6 to 1 on July 27, 1909, the umpire had to be escorted off the field and taken to the police station for safety from the incensed crowd that threatened to mob the official.

The Park View nine ultimately prevailed, winning the Pennant in August in a game that reportedly drew a crowd of 1,200. The final score was 1 to 2 with all runs occurring in the first inning. To finish out the 1909 season the leading teams from eight popular leagues played off for the titles in two sections, A and B. Park View bested the Aggies (of the Independence league) 5 to 1 in Section B winning the trophy as a result. The other teams in Section B that year were A. S. and T. Co. of the Bankers League and the Station of the Railroad Y.M.C.A. league.

The Petworth Team, from the Washington Herald, Aug. 19, 1909

Oddly, Park View did not field a team in the 1910 season, though Silver Spring and Mount Pleasant did join the league. Mount Pleasant’s participation was short lived, however, as the 1911 roster of teams showed a return of Park View, included Petworth, Woodburn, Brookland, Silver Spring, and added Takoma.

The Petworth club was a mainstay throughout the league’s existence, and it was actually the loss of the Petworth ball field at Grant Circle and Upshur that caused the Suburgan League to collapse in April 1914.

The Brightwood Nine, from the Washington Herald, June 6, 1909

Sources consulted:

“Amateurs will open season tomorrow; prospects are bright in every league.” The Washington Post, May 2, 1909, S2.

“Enter Suburban League.” The Washington Post, June 28, 1910, 9.

“Page will pilot Suburban League.” The Washington Times, August 30, 1908, 2.

“Parkview cops the pennant.” The Washington Herald, August 18, 1909, 8.

“Pennant to Parkview.” The Washington Post, August 18, 1909, 9.

“Riot at ball game.” The Washington Post, July 28, 1909, 9.

“Suburban League Active.” The Washington Post, February 5, 1909, 8.

“Suburban League Circuit now definitely completed.” The Washington Post, March 25, 1911, 9.

“Suburban League to disband — two others may not reorganize.” The Washington Post, April 19, 1914, SP3.

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