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Hullabaloo: Living History: Reggie Jackson Takes Sports Fans to School

“They pointed me out with the N-word…. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

Listen to “Mr. October” describe his experiences as a Black professional baseball player beginning in the mid-1960s after passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. As Elie Mystal tweets, this is history that many people want buried.

The Washington Post fills in context:

Brought onto a set Thursday to share memories of playing at a historic baseball stadium in Alabama, MLB Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson expressed raw, unsparing thoughts about the racism he experienced decades ago.

“I walked into restaurants and they would point at me and say, ‘The [n-word] can’t eat here.’ I would go to a hotel and they would say, ‘The [n-word] can’t stay here,’” the 78-year-old told a Fox Sports panel that featured recently retired major league stars Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz and Derek Jeter.

The comments came ahead of an MLB game between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants staged at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field. Billed as the country’s oldest ballpark, it was home to the Negro Leagues’ Black Barons as well as the minor league Birmingham Barons.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” Jackson said several times.

The former slugger for the A’s, Orioles, Yankees and Angels credited a number of White teammates, plus then-manager John McNamara, with helping him get through that period. Jackson said he spent several nights a week for many weeks sleeping on their couches until they received threats to “burn our apartment complex down” if he didn’t leave. Jackson added that his Birmingham teammates — including Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi, who went on to win three World Series with him in Oakland — saved him from getting into physical confrontations with Southern racists.

“I’d have got killed here, because I’d have beat somebody’s a–,” Jackson said Thursday, referring to the history of lynchings of Black people by White mobs. “You’d have saw me in an oak tree somewhere.”

“If that doesn’t hurt to listen to, you’re missing something as a human being,” responded X-user Greg Cantwell.

The same sort of people who want this history disappeared fueled the Redeemer movement, enforced Jim Crow laws, and kept alive the Lost Cause for well over 100 years to keep from confronting the sins of their grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great grandparents. They gave a new meaning to the term “whitewash.” It continues to this day. The legacy of slave patrols continues to this day.

Should our republic survive the fascist movement spreading here and abroad, people now engaged in the MAGA movement will put equally strenuous efforts behind burying the history of their seditious participation and that of their parents and grandparents. Just as before.


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Tom Sullivan

Tom Sullivan is a political blogger and daily contributor to the national progressive blog Hullabaloo. A former columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times, his wri...