Dedication of stamp is a hit

Published 2:40 am Saturday, July 3, 2010

Staff Writer

Hundreds of baseball fans and others showed up for the unveiling ceremony for the newest 44-cent Negro Leagues baseball stamp, which was held at the Susie Gray McConnell Sports Complex on Friday.
Myra Lynn, postmistress of the Washington post office, and Mayor Archie Jennings welcomed the audience to the ceremony, which included the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro presenting the colors.
Jennings said he has been a baseball fan all his life and was fortunate enough to sit down and talk with baseball great Carl Long for more than two hours Wednesday afternoon.
“And let me tell you, that was a treat,” Jennings said. “I loved it. Just talking with him, listening to him, I really learned a lot about the history of the game and what the players in the professional ranks went through and how they endured so much.”
Former players of the Negro Baseball League said they are honored by the issuance of the stamp, with many of them sharing stories of their days playing in the league.
“This day is to honor these gentlemen who have endured so much,” Lynn said. “They, like Jackie Robinson, just didn’t break the stereotype, they shattered it for all to come forward after them.”
Carl Long, who played for the Birmingham Black Barons and a Hall of Famer, told stories of his days on the baseball diamond and the laughs he and his teammates shared in the dugouts. A jack-of-all-trades, Long also was the first black to be elected sheriff in Lenoir County.
Long also played alongside some of the sports greatest players, such as Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and more.
“When my dad showed up, I thought he wanted to be there to see Jackie Robinson play,” Long said. “And he said, ‘No, I’m here to see you.’
“He would shout at the top of his lungs when I made a good play, saying, ‘That’s my son!’ But then when I’d make a bad play, someone would ask who’s son I was, and he’d say, ‘Damned if I know!’”
The ceremony includes the sharing of memories and laughter from the players and their children.
Dennis Biddle, president of Yesterday’s Negro League Baseball, has written a book and funded a DVD for people to see and read about baseball’s “yesteryear.”
“It’s a way to learn about how society was cheated our of the greatest opportunity to see some of the greatest players of the game play each other,” he said. “And it’s a way to learn about history.”
Long thanked many people for helping him achieve his accomplishments, saying, “You never get something done just by yourself. Somewhere along the lines, you’ll find that there are always people around to help you succeed. And that’s what we did here. And that’s why we need to thank so many so we could play the game — the greatest game on earth.”
Long began playing baseball when he was 14 years old, when he left the cotton fields of Rock Hill, S.C.
“I was a good baseball player,” he said. “I could run, I could throw and I could hit a home run,” he said.
Long laughed as he saw a familiar face in the crowd.
“And there’s the man I hit a home run off in Chicago. I hit it a ways. And it hasn’t landed yet,” he said.
Several players credited the game of baseball for teaching them about life and how to live a good, full life.
The stamp commemorates the 1920-1960 era of the game and how it affected racism, integration and sports altogether.