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MLB at Rickwood Field: Reggie Jackson recalls racist treatment at Alabama in stunning pregame interview

Before he met Mr. October, certain people had a completely different name for Reggie Jackson. (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo)

MLB brought the long-neglected history of the Negro Leagues to the forefront Thursday with their game at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama. That included performances by some black baseball legends and a loud reminder of everything that was happening around them.

During an appearance on Fox Sports’ pregame show, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson was asked by Alex Rodriguez about his emotions upon returning to Birmingham, where he played in the minor leagues. Over the next three minutes, Jackson recalled the outrage and outrage of trying to exist as a black baseball player in Alabama in 1967.

Jackson recalled being barred from restaurants and hotels and threatened with arson. He specifically thanked some white players and coaches for their help, saying he believes otherwise it would have become so violent that it would have ended in his lynching.

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It was remarkable to see:

Here’s Jackson’s full response:

“Coming back here is not easy. The racism when I played here, the difficulty of going through different places we traveled. Luckily I had a manager and I had players in the team who helped me get through it. But I would do not.” I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. People said to me today: I spoke, and they said, ‘Do you think you are a better person, do you think you won when you played here and conquered?’ I said, ‘You know, I would never want to do it again.’

“I’d walk into restaurants, and they’d point at me and say, ‘Those n***** can’t eat here.’ I went to a hotel and they said, ‘That idiot can’t stay here.’ We went to [Oakland Athletics owner] Charlie Finley’s country club for a welcome dinner, and they pointed at me with the N-word, “He can’t come in here.” Finley marched the entire team out. Finally they let me in there. He said, ‘We’ll go to the restaurant and eat hamburgers. We go where we are wanted. ”

“Luckily I had a manager in Johnny McNamara who, if I couldn’t eat on site, no one would eat. We would get food to travel. If I couldn’t stay at a hotel, they would drive to the hotel next door and find a place looking for where I could stay. Joe and Sharon Rudi, I slept on their couch three, four nights a week for a month and a half. Finally, they were threatened that they would burn down our apartment building unless I came out.

“The year I came here, Bull Connor was the sheriff the year before, and they took minor league baseball out of here because the Klan killed four black girls in 1963 – kids 11, 12, 14 years old – in a church here. and was never charged. The Klan – Life Magazine wrote a story about them as if they were being honored.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. At the same time, if it hadn’t been for my white friends, if it hadn’t been for a white manager, and Rudi, Fingers, and Duncan, and Lee Meyers, I would never have made it. I was too physically violent. I was willing to fight some people. I would have been killed here because I would have beaten someone up, and you would have seen me in an oak tree somewhere.’

Jackson played 114 games for the Birmingham A’s before being called up to the Kansas City Athletics. He became an icon with the A’s and the New York Yankees, earning his nickname “Mr. October” while winning five World Series titles.

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He retired as a 14-time All-Star and made the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Regardless, he had a great caregiver, but he will clearly never forget what he went through to get there.

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