Reggie Jackson Reflects on Painful Memories at Negro Leagues Tribute Game

Reggie Jackson Reflects on Painful Memories at Negro Leagues Tribute Game

Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson found it challenging to return to Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, for the Negro Leagues tribute game, recalling the intense racism he faced there decades ago.

Jackson, who played for the Birmingham A’s in 1967 in the Double-A Southern League, was one of the few Black players on the team. The experience at Rickwood Field was marred by significant racial hostility.

During the broadcast for Thursday’s game, Jackson shared his struggles. “The racism when I played here, the difficulty of going through different places where we traveled,” he said. “Fortunately I had a manager and I had players on the team that helped me get through it, but I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

Jackson recounted harsh incidents from his past, including being refused service at restaurants and hotels because of his race. “I walked into restaurants and they would point at me and say ‘a ner can’t eat here.’ I would go to a hotel and they would say, ‘a ner can’t stay here,’” he recalled.

He also remembered a violent incident in 1980 when he played for the Yankees. A man fired shots at Jackson during a parking dispute in New York, yelling racial slurs and attacking Jackson’s car. Thankfully, Jackson was not injured.

Jackson’s illustrious career includes being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993, hitting 563 home runs over 21 seasons, and earning the nickname “Mr. October” for his World Series heroics. He was a 14-time American League All-Star and a five-time World Series champion.

Thursday’s MLB game also paid tribute to Willie Mays, who recently passed away at 93. Mays, a former Birmingham Black Barons player, was celebrated alongside the legacy of the Negro Leagues, with around 60 former Negro League players attending the game.

Jackson expressed deep respect for Mays, noting how he taught future players through his approach to the game. Jackson observed that Mays and his contemporaries often suppressed complaints about societal issues, contrasting with today’s more outspoken players.

“The way that he showed the love of the game, the way he respected the game – even when he had a complaint about what may have been going on about minorities or whatever,” Jackson said. “In his era … you didn’t speak about it. He loved the game so much that he refrained.”

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