Integrating Youth Baseball, II

As a followup to my previous post, my new town was larger than the first, but had a smaller black population. I played four years of youth baseball there. We finished first twice, second once, and third the other time. There were a handful of black kids in the league, but not on my team. I don’t remember a lot of trouble between the black kids and the players on my team and certainly can’t speak to how that worked with other teams.

I went into the US Army, spent an awful year in Viet Nam, then because I had some time left in the service, was sent to a small army post in Northern Virginia. There were enough kids to form one youth team and few adults willing to coach it. I managed to hook on as an assistant, handling the infield and coaching first base. The team had all of eleven players, most white, a couple were black, and one kid whose folks were of Filipino ancestry. We were good. Well, they were good, I just coached. The post team was traditionally part of the local town league and this season was no different. There were six teams in the local league and we rolled to the title easily (the only time I ever helped coach a team to first place). On the team itself there seemed to be no racial problems, at least none that I spotted. But that wasn’t true in the league itself. One of the teams was integrated, with ours having the most black players. I can’t speak to team unity on other teams, but I didn’t see any particular problems. What I saw was the parents.

Now Little League parents are famous, or perhaps infamous. These had the same problems (as did some of our parents). But several of these had another problem. Coaching at first base, you are frequently the person closest to the parents of the other team so you hear things other members of your team wouldn’t. There were such classic lines as “Well, if we had that many black kids we’d be winning too.” By the way, “black” isn’t the word I most commonly heard, but this is a family site. “Well, what do you expect? Look at that black kid run.” There wasn’t a lot of obvious overt racism until you listened to the parents. Again, I left after that season and only heard that the post team did well the next year.

Next I want to pass along an experience I had in my new hometown. That should conclude this topic.

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2 Responses to “Integrating Youth Baseball, II”

  1. William Miller Says:

    I’ve been following along with this mini-series. Not surprised to hear that the parents had more of a problem with integration than did the kids. Mind if I ask where it was you grew up? My experiences as a kid in the ’70’s in working class Bridgeport were similar to yours, regarding race. The biggest problem was so-called “white flight” to the suburbs, turning one mixed race community into two unofficially segregated ones.
    Interesting posts. Looking forward to the next one, Bill

  2. verdun2 Says:

    grew up in the American Southwest.

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