Courage: Not Just a Game

Two stories today about shameful history and courageous men.

Charlie Sifford, the first black player allowed on a PGA tour, has passed at age 92. Breaking par, as a caddy at age 13, he was not allowed to play in the PGA until it dropped its white’s only rule in 1961.

“In 1952, he was allowed to play in the Phoenix Open in an all-black foursome that included the former heavyweight champion Joe Louis. When the golfers arrived at the first hole, they found that someone had put excrement into it.”

NYTimes

Tiger Woods has called Sifford “one of the bravest men ever to play this sport.”

Yep.

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Val James, alive and writing his autobiography, Black Ice, helped break the color barrier in another very white sport – professional hockey.  He was the first American born black player in the NHL and endured abuse from Americans and Canadians for years.

Warren Skorodenski, a former Springfield, Mass., Indians goalie who spent parts of five seasons in the N.H.L., recalled Springfield fans yelling racial slurs at James and throwing so many bananas on the ice that linesmen collected them during stoppages of play. A few fans, he said, dressed in Ku Klux Klan-style hoods.

“It was disgusting,” said Skorodenski, who is not mentioned in the book. “To be in his shoes, I just couldn’t imagine.”

In Salem, Va., in 1981, a CBS News crew filming a report on James recorded fans chanting a racial epithet at him. A producer interviewed a proud teenager who brought a watermelon to the game for James. Gallagher shared a copy of the report with The New York Times.

“There is the only way I can explain it for people who don’t understand that feeling,” James said. “Let’s start with women. What’s the worst thing you can call a woman? Imagine having one of those words thrown at you every three seconds for 60 minutes. Now multiply that 40 road games a year.”

NY Times

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