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Jan 25 2011

Country Music Star Charlie Pride and the Negro Leagues

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From the AV Club:

Charley Pride grew up with a seemingly impossible dream: He wanted to be part of the tiny subsection of talented baseball players who make it to the big leagues. It was an audacious dream for an impoverished, abused, black high-school dropout at a time when black major-leaguers were rare and the Negro leagues were limping their way to extinction.

Through a combination of talent, drive, slick talk, and hard work, Pride nearly made it. He only gave up after following a last-ditch attempt to crack Major League Baseball by showing up uninvited at a Mets training camp following the team’s famously disastrous 1962 season—though he made sure to have a handful of bats with his name emblazoned on them sent to the clubhouse to create the illusion that he was a big deal and belonged there—and trying to sneak his way into a tryout before Casey Stengel had him ejected from the team bus.

Pride’s baseball dreams died hard. After he threw out his arm early in his career, he developed a tricky knuckleball. When his career in the Negro American League and minor leagues petered out, he got a job at a smelting plant specifically so he could pitch and hit for the plant’s formidable company team. But when arguably the worst team in the history of professional baseball decided they didn’t even want to give Pride a chance, even he was forced to concede his days as an aspiring major-leaguer had ended. With that impossible quest having reached an unmistakable end, Pride embarked on an even more quixotic endeavor: becoming the world’s first, and to date, only, black country superstar—Darius Rucker doesn’t count—in the midst of a decade wracked by civil unrest and racial anxiety.


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