At Rickwood, Reggie Jackson Describes Enduring Racism

Hall of Famer, MLB visited longtime home of Negro Leagues team
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2024 5:15 PM CDT
At Rickwood, Reggie Jackson Describes Enduring Racism
Reggie Jackson signs autographs before a game in Anaheim on June 7.   (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

Major League Baseball made a celebratory visit to Rickwood Field in Alabama on Thursday night that included a Giants-Cardinals game and festivities honoring the Negro Leagues, whose Birmingham Black Barons long played there, and the late Willie Mays. Fox Sports broadcasters interviewed a series of former players, the Washington Post reports, and one Hall of Famer conceded the trip stirred bitter memories. "Coming back here is not easy," Reggie Jackson said on the broadcast, per USA Today. "The racism that I (faced) here when I played here, the difficulty of going through different places that we traveled." He added, "I wouldn't wish it on anybody."

Jackson, 78, played for the Double-A Barons at Rickwood and other ballparks in the South in 1967 as a member of the Oakland Athletics organization. In the interview, he described life at home and on the road. "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.'" At one point, players went to A's owner Charlie Finley's country club for a welcome home dinner, Jackson said, and the staff said he couldn't enter. "Finley marched the whole team out. Finally, they let me in. He had said, 'We're gonna go to a diner, and eat hamburgers, we'll go where we're wanted.'"

Jackson said manager John McNamara and several white teammates helped him, naming Rollie Fingers, Dave Duncan, and Joe Rudi. He said Joe and Sharon Rudi let him sleep on their couch until they received a threat to "burn our apartment complex down unless I got out." Without that help, Jackson said, "I would've got killed here, because I would've beat someone's ass." The outfielder was called up later in 1967 and played 21 years in the big leagues, winning five World Series titles. Fox posted a video of the interview here. (More Reggie Jackson stories.)

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