By Kwame McDonald
During my 70-plus years of conscious athletics watching, listening and participating, let me share with you some of my most satisfactory, thrilling, and yes, frustrating experiences.
We lived in Chicago for a summer, and I saw my dad pitch for the Joe Louis Brown Bombers minor Negro League baseball team. He was 6’4”, 240 pounds — pretty big for people in those days. We were so proud of him.
Listening to and watching JOE LOUIS winning so many fights. As Madison, WI residents, we, my brother Billy and I, could never figure out why we couldn’t go to Madison Square Garden to watch the fights. We thought that Madison Square Garden was in Madison, Wisconsin.
I remember writing Mr. Louis for a picture with his autograph. He sent it. It is still one of my most prized possessions.
It was my honor to be the batboy for the Capital City Athletic Club softball club. The best time was when we played against the Italian Workman’s Club. They always played the game at Birmingham Park in a neighborhood called the Green Bush, where most of the Italians, Black folks, and low-income people lived.
Those games were great. My uncles, my second father, and their friends played. They all went to the great Madison Central High School. We little kids followed in their footsteps and went there also.
As I played horseshoes in playground competition, it was my pleasure to be city champ in the 14-, 15-, and 16-year-old classes.
While working for my uncle Duke in his Car Bright Auto Laundry, I put in 44 hours a week Monday through Saturday with a half day a week off to play midget league baseball for 3F Laundry. I used to brag about the fact that I was paid $3 a week and had more money on Monday than I did when I was an adult worker making five-figure wages. My only expenses then were a quarter for Sunday school and maybe a little investment in pop and a candy bar.
While I was in junior and senior high, I played basketball, football, volleyball, and participated in track. But before I participated, I was a big sports fan. I remember that when I would go to the barber shop I knew more about sports than any of the grown men in the shop. It was my honor and pleasure to be the sports editor of my high school newspaper.
The only sport I was really good in was volleyball. I was captain of the Wisconsin State High School Champions. I had my days in all the sports, but not prolonged excellence.
One of my most satisfactory experiences was coaching a 12-and-under baseball team sponsored by 3F Laundry. I was in college at the time. Two of the stars on my team were my young brother Jack Mitchell and our cousin Dickie Miller. We were a very good team and were fortunate to win more than one championship.
My less-than-spectacular sports career continued in football and track at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
After graduating from CSU in ’54, I returned to Madison, enrolled in law school at the University of Wisconsin, and continued to play city league softball, flag football and basketball. During the next two years, I was on a few championship teams in each sport. One of my biggest thrills was to play on a team with my brother Jack, who, when he came out of the service, relegated me to sixth-man role.
In 1956 I got married and moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where my love of sports continued.
Next week: “How I fell in love with sports” continues.
Kwame McDonald welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-398-5278.