Houston Hosts 2014 Civil Rights Game

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 6/3/2014, 9:25 p.m. | Updated on 6/3/2014, 9:25 p.m.
Houston Astros’ Bo Porter, Quinton McCracken, Jon Singleton, Chris Carter, Dexter Fowler, Jerome Williams, L. J. Hoes and others players ...

Houston Astros’ Bo Porter, Quinton McCracken, Jon Singleton, Chris Carter, Dexter Fowler, Jerome Williams, L. J. Hoes and others players of color stand on the shoulders of baseball ground breakers like Bud Fowler, Moses Fleetwood Walker, Frank P. Thompson, Dan McClellan, Chet Brewer and Jackie Robinson who took those first vital steps to make it possible for ball players of color to play America’s favorite game. Struggling through racial hatred, these pioneers of baseball opened the eyes of the world to see that African Americans and others of color had unspeakable talent and exemplary character that made all questioned the bias of segregation from the game and change the course of the civil rights movement.

If you don’t know your past, yon can’t appreciate your present. Major League Baseball knows the past for the African American baller was one of filled with many highs and lows. But due to the efforts of those visionary first ball players, many reap rewards but there is still work to be done. MLB honors the toils of modern day heroes of whom continue to push the envelope in an effort to make all equal in the folds of the diamond with the annual Civil Rights Game. Something that started small in 2007 in Memphis has grown from one game to a series of events to reflect on how far the game has come. Houston had the privilege of hosting this year’s bevy of activities.

Houston etched their mark in history of black baseball starting in the 1880s and the home team paid homage to those early semipro and professional black teams by wearing the jerseys of the Houston Eagles who called Houston home in 1949-1950. The Eagles, which were the only Negro baseball team in Texas, came to Houston during a time when the Negro American League was hanging on by a thread after Jackie Robinson integrated the game in 1947. Blacks weren’t coming to all blacks games now that blacks could play in MLB. At the time, Houston had one of the largest black populations and it was thought that the Eagles could revitalize the league. Although the Eagles had plenty of talent, when the team made the big move from New Jersey to Texas attendance still didn’t pick up since players weren’t widely known. More popular players had signed with white teams. Another blow to the Eagles was that they placed last during the season and they were supported by black media of the day. The team eventually moved to New Orleans.

Despite the Eagles rocky road in Houston, they reigned as kings of the diamond again on last weekend when the current Houston Astros put on replicate jerseys of the Eagles and the opposing Baltimore Orioles wore the jerseys of the Baltimore Elite Giants, who played from 1938-1950. Before the start of the game in front of over 38,000 fans, boxing legend and Houston native George Foreman threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Also in attendance were MLB Beacon Awards honorees legendary hall of fame NFL star Jim Brown, founder of Motown Berry Gordy, and Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. The Astros didn’t disappoint as they won their seventh straight game.