Sam Lacy: He Made a Difference – Part X


In my last effort, I left a little intrigue on the table. We addressed one of Sam’s trips to the South to work at his trade. The Dodgers had signed five more colored players, bringing the total to six. This left him as the odd man out. For this reason he had to find lodging in one of the approved homes the team had secured.

To his dismay, he was boarded with a White family. His discomfort was difficult for him to hide, but the people seemed to be nice enough. He ate his meals out, and when he returned to bed down for the night he breathed a sigh of relief that the family had already retired. One evening, just before he fell asleep, he felt this form join him in the bed.

I left things on that note, leaving the readers with a week to form a conclusion. Shortly after my copy hit the editorial desk, my phone rang. Upon answering, I heard the voice of my boss saying, “Tim, where are you going with this?” My answer satisfied him, and left him with a chuckle.

Here was Sam in the Deep South, boarded with a White family, and someone had just climbed in the bed with him. As visions of the KKK danced in his head, he uttered a prayer, “Lord, what am I going to do now?” He decided his best option was to feign sleep.

Finally his bed mate decided to get up. When he worked up enough courage to take a peek at his departing bed guest, he discovered that it was just the house cat, probably serving notice that this stranger was infringing on his turf.

After I rejoined Pop in Florida, he received instructions from his boss to check out Althea Gibson (the Serena Williams of the time) who was participating in a tournament not too far away. Pop discovered that not too far away was more than 200 miles. At any rate, he borrowed a car from Dan Bankhead (the first Black pitcher in Major League Baseball), purchased a road map and we were on our way.

Having a penchant for speed, Pop was tooling along at a good clip when he noticed there was a flashing light in the rear view mirror. Here he was, a colored man cruising along in this new Cadillac, and as he pulled over he noticed swamp land on both sides of the road. When he looked up, there was this sheriff (“You in a heap of trouble, boy”), in this big hat demanding license and registration.

Producing both, Pop was relieved when the cop dismissed him with, “You better slow down!”

Upon reflection, after he was able to compose himself, Pop decided that the name Bankhead (a very prominent name in the south at that time) was the reason for leniency. The cop probably thought he was a chauffer. For me, it was just another page in the adventure I was living at the time.

The trip continued, and we only got lost twice. Getting lost was unusual for Pop, but I guess the encounter with the law had him a little unnerved. 

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Sam Lacy: He Made a Difference - Part X

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