Last week I took a break from “Sam Lacy: He Made a Difference” to share some stories from my childhood. Some are tales shared by my dad, and others are stories I lived while walking in his shadow. It seems like yesterday, with Pop spinning yarns and hitting ground balls for me to catch with my face. This was quality time for us, and I take pleasure in sharing these moments with you.
In the early days, travel was mostly by train. Sam was on his way to Mexico to cover some of the colored players who were playing winter baseball south of the border. At that time it was customary for the trains to make stops so the passengers could disembark and grab a bite to eat from the trackside vendors.
A meat and vegetable dish had some appeal, so Sam decided to order. He noticed that some of the other passengers had peppers with their meals, and being a fan of a little spice, he decided to join in. Being unsure of how he would handle the red peppers, he opted for peppers of the yellow variety. Upon his second bite, his mouth rose to a temperature of about 700-degrees. He was smart enough to know you don’t treat this with water, so he ordered some milk from a passing waiter. The lukewarm milk arrived, and helped to subdue the flames. Wiping the streaming tears from his face, he departed the restaurant to the tune of a Mariachi band playing in his stomach. All future trips south of the border were accompanied by a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
In those days, Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson were the attractions of the fight game. These fights were held in Madison Square Garden, and New York was the mecca for fans of the Sweet Science.
The Theresa Hotel was top of the line for colored folk, and on one occasion my mom accompanied Pop and me to the Big Apple. During the night I heard my mom alarmingly say, “Sam, the fire alarm is ringing. There must be a fire in the hotel.” Pop rose from the bed, and proceeded to check the rest of the rooms. He returned to the bedroom and stated, “It ain’t in here,” and promptly went back to sleep. The unflappable Sam.
One of my favorite stories came out of chaos. Those living at the time remember the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Jewish athletes were held hostage, and many lives were lost. However before the turmoil, Sam and the other members of the press were being bused to the events of the day. On the trip, the bus wound up behind a little old lady on a bicycle. She was in the middle of the road, and the bus driver was leaning on his horn to get her to move. Talk about unflappable. This woman ignored the driver, his bus and his horn. As she got to her turn, she raised her arm and middle finger to signify her feelings of the situation. This prompted a rousing ovation from the press corps passengers.
I will test the waters to see if my next efforts should be a return to “He Made a Difference,” or if I should pass along more of these stories. Results, next week.