Sask. honours player from 1952 all-Black baseball team with Hall of Fame entry


Nat Bates sat in a theatre full of fans on Monday to revisit his days in Saskatchewan — the one place he says he felt welcomed.

Bates, now 91, travelled to Indian Head, Sask., in 1952 to play with The Indian Head Rockets, an all-Black baseball team originally from Jacksonville, Fla. The team was one of several that competed across the Canadian Prairies in the 1940s and 1950s, providing Black and Cuban players an opportunity that was hard to access in the United States.

In 1952, there were more than a dozen leagues in the Prairies, with four operating in Saskatchewan. 

The Rockets team was inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame last year, and Bates was individually given a place in the hall on Friday.

“For people to come forward and show that kind of respect after such a long long period of time, of which I had forgotten most of it, has to be tremendously rewarding,” Bates said.

Bates travelled from his home in Richmond, Cali., for the induction. On Monday he was in Indian Head, about 65 kilometres east of Regina, for a screening of Golden Opportunities, a CBC documentary about Bates, the Indian Head Rockets and the other teams of Black American players who came to the Prairies in the ’40s and ’50s.

Watch Golden Opportunities here: 

How Black American baseball players made a name for themselves in small Saskatchewan town 7 decades ago

The Indian Head Rockets from Saskatchewan was one of several teams stocked with Black players from the United States that played across the Canadian Prairies in the 1940s and 1950s.

After the screening, Bates patiently stepped down from the stage and talked to every fan that had come to see him, despite roughly seven decades having passed since he touched a baseball bat in the city.

Fans lined up to get newspaper clippings and posters autographed. Some had preserved the relics for as long as they could remember. Some — like Shirley Jackson — even saw the Rockets play live.

“They were all good, exceptional players. I think they won a lot of games,” Jackson said. “We enjoyed that here — hot summers and baseball.”

A woman and man sitting on theatre seats. The woman is holding a poster that has a picture of Nat Bates and Barack Obama.
Shirley Jackson and her husband Joe Zanolini attended the meet and greet with Nat Bates and screening of CBC’s documentary, Golden Opportunities, at the Grand Theatre in Indian Head on Monday. (Germain Wilson/CBC)

This trip was Bates’s third to Canada. He said it was the most heartwarming one yet.

“I feel fantastic. The warm welcome that I received throughout my visit during this last trip has been overwhelming,” he said.

Bates said  the people of Indian Head made him feel at home during his time playing there.

“In addition to the hospitality of the people in general, oftentimes on Saturdays or after games, families would invite us to their home for dinner. That was unheard of.”

Two elderly Black men stand side by side on a baseball diamond.
Nat Bates, left, and Willie Reed played together on the Indian Head Rockets team in 1952. They remain friends to this day. Here, they are seen at Willie Mays Junior Giants Fields, Richmond, Calif., where they both live. (Lisa Fryklund)

A teary-eyed Bates said he believes he is one of only two surviving members from the 1952 team, the other being Willy Reed. 

For players facing racism in sports today, he said it’s important to respect yourself.

“When you do encounter those kinds of situations, be a man strong enough to ignore and move away from it.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

A banner of upturned fists, with the words 'Being Black in Canada'.

Source link

Denial of responsibility! Planetconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave a comment