In time for a special celebration with the Blue Rocks at Frawley Stadium, Joe Pirro tells the story of a local Negro League baseball icon who keeps the memories (good and bad) alive.
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Stanley Glenn’s closest friends held onto their secret until a recent John Bartram High School reunion. Over breakfast, the fellow octogenarians finally told Glenn about a brief visit a New York Yankees scout once paid the Philadelphia school. He came to the office looking for the strapping, strong-armed catcher then known as “Slamming” Stanley Glenn, who knocked baseballs over a high fence and out onto Elmwood Avenue. But when he learned that Glenn was black, he turned around and went home.
As one of the last living players who played in baseball’s Negro League, Glenn has known—and lived—plenty of injustices in the intervening years. The resident of Yeadon, Pennsylvania, could harbor an unsettling dissatisfaction with the treatment, the lack of press coverage, even the slipshod statistics that may forever keep deserving black players out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Penmar Park, where Glenn’s Philadelphia Stars played, was often “dirty.” It lacked sufficient lighting. Trains making the Belmont and Girard stops would bellow coal smoke into the games.
But Glenn, who turns 83 this month and remains president of the Negro League Baseball Players Association, isn’t bitter. In 2006, he titled his self-published book “Don’t Let Anyone Take Your Joy Away.”
“It’s true,” Glenn says of the title. “Unless you were black and lived in the South, no one could tell you all the things that either made you a good person or an angry person. My father—a true Christian—wouldn’t let us say anything about anyone in the house. He taught that you should love people for the sake of loving them.”
In recent years, America has come to love its remaining Negro League players. Sadly, only about 30 remain. In June, the U.S. Postal Service released 44-cent tribute stamps to the league, which flourished from the 1920s to the late ’40s. There will be another reunion August 14 during the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ Judy Johnson Night, held annually to honor the Negro League third baseman and 1975 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.
The middle of last decade, Philadelphia Stars Negro League Memorial Park was dedicated at Parkside Field’s original site. The centerpieces there are a 7-foot, 1,000-pound bronze statue of a Negro League player mounted on a 4-foot pedestal, and a mural honoring black baseball in the city—not unlike the Judy Johnson statue at the Blue Rock’s Frawley Stadium. Future plans at the site include a Little League ball field and a Philadelphia Stars museum. The league also is represented at shows of memorabilia and African-American history conferences.
“[The recognition is] overdo, but it’s great,” says Glenn’s nephew, Cal Puriefoy, who handles media relations for the remaining Stars, a team in existence from 1933-52.
Other than Glenn, surviving Stars include Harold Gould, Overbrook High School’s Bill “Ready” Cash, and Mahlon Duckett, another Overbrook alum and the Negro National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1940. Just how bad was their struggle? “We don’t say ‘bad,’” Cash has said. “It was worse than that.”
On a 28-day road trip in 1949, the Stars slept in a bed for just four hours. They couldn’t stay in hotels, eat in restaurants or use restrooms. They dressed under bleachers, not in team rooms.
Page 2: Grand Slam, continues...