With apologies to the great Ogden Nash, whose “Line-up for Yesterday” is a classic. That poem, though, doesn’t mention any of the baseball greats who were banned from Major League Baseball because they were Black. This poem that I’ve cobbled together focuses entirely on the Negro Leagues (everyone or everything mentioned is related to that). While it tries to spread the love around, the poem really proves just one thing: I ain’t no poet.
A is for Aaron, He was king of the clout, Whose grace, class, and style, Were never in doubt. B is for Bell, Fastest man who wore cleats; Couldn’t stop Cool Papa When he took to his feets. C’s for Cristóbal, The Great Torriente, The dark Cuban slugger Who lost baseballs aplenty. D is Dihigo, More versatile than usual, He pitched like Bob Gibson, And he hit like Stan Musial. E is for Effa, The splendid Ms. Manley, She piloted the Eagles, And did so quite handily. F is for Foster, The Father, the Founder, He could pitch, he could lead; Rube was an all-rounder. G is for Gibson, Who was called the black Ruth, But Josh outhit the Babe, To tell you the truth. H is for Homestead, The home of the Grays, Best team in Black baseball, For quite a few days. I is for Indy, Where the ABCs were; Their time as league leaders Was kind of a blur. J is for Johnson, A defensive beauty, Who some folks called Jing, But most folks called Judy. K’s for Kansas City, The city of kings, Where the Monarchs were champs, Among other things. L is for Leonard, Who answered to Buck, The best way to pitch him Was throw hard and duck. M is for Mackey, The catcher named Biz, A mighty fine hitter, And a defensive whiz. N is for Negroes, And for ‘Not’ allowed in; Even though they were brilliant, They were banned for their skin. O is for Oscar, He was Mays before Mays, 'Cause Charleston could beat you In so many ways. P is for Pittsburgh, The Crawfords’ home town; They may be the best To ever throw down. Q is for Quincy, The well-traveled Trouppe, If you tried to outpunch him, Then you were a dupe. R is for Robbie, Jackie wore forty-two, An American hero, Clad in Dodger blue. S is for Satchel, Who defied his age, And just kept on pitching, ‘Cause he was Satchel Paige. T is for Turkey, Who talked to his bats, And ran like a bird, Flying ‘round the basepaths. U’s for Ely Underwood, Whose grandson named Blair Is an actor who played Jackie, With depth, skill, and flair. V is for Vic, An outfielder named Harris, He was no Turkey Stearnes, But he didn’t embarrass. W is for Willie, Mays, Wells, or Foster; These guys all belong On the all-time roster. X is for X-Giants, Titans based in New Jersey, They gave Pop Lloyd his start, And they rarely showed mercy. Y is for Yancey, First Black player in the Stadium, The famed House that Ruth Built, Where Babe used to play ‘em. Z is for Zest, For zip and for zeal, The spirit of Black ball, Was palpably real.
Oscar Charleston was Willie Mays before Willie Mays.