Fifty years ago, Twins baseball and Black civil rights looked much more hopeful
The 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Minnesota Twins winning the 1965 American League championship was held at the August 1 game. I was excited to attend.
Tony Oliva (born Pedro Oliva in Cuba) gave the history, referencing great players of the 1960s, some in attendance, some having passed, both players of color (Rod Carew, Mudcat Grant, Earl Batty, Camilo Pascual, Zoilo Versalles) and White players (Jim Katt, Bob Alison, Harmon Killebrew).
I mention color so we don’t forget the significance of race integration in sports; it was still relatively new then. We won’t forget what Tony Oliva said nor forget the challenge he set before the 2015 players to win.
Remember: The ’60s decade was great for sports and civil rights in Minneapolis. We repeat past mistakes and lose the future when we don’t retain the lessons of the past.
Remember: 1960-61 the Minnesota Gophers won the National Championship and the Rose Bowl (Sandy Stephens, Judge Dickson, Bill Munsey, Bobby Bell and Carl Eller).
Remember: 1964-65 winning Gopher Basketball teams (Lou Hudson and Archie Clark).
Remember: the Minnesota swagger when the 1965 baseball season began.
Remember: professional and collegiate players of color bringing their presence and inspiration to African American communities (schools, community centers, churches, play grounds) of the Twin Cities.
Remember: great optimistic voices of civil rights, especially Cecil Newman and this newspaper and civil rights legend Nellie Stone Johnson, DFL co-founder, member of the Democratic Central Committee, and first African American elected to office in Minneapolis.
Remember! Tony caused me to reflect on what we have retained about the difference between then and now in the African American community and the work still to do. We used to be about tasking and committing ourselves to success, be it in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Fergus Falls, etc. There was a sense of achievement. Now, 50 years later, we see we have lost community pride, spirit, inventiveness, and success.
Remember: The great discussions in 1965 about baseball and civil rights took place side by side in barbershops, churches, businesses, offices, homes, and the various other gathering places of African Americans, sowing optimism regarding the future.
Remember: There were no outbreaks of murders and mayhem. Black folks were too busy concentrating on the positive things of life, talking about the Twins and Gophers along with discussing the new civil rights legislation to enable African Americans to finally take their rightful place at the tables of opportunity and success, after centuries of denying African Americans their opportunity for inclusion.
Remember: Professional and collegiate teams of the 1960s were an integral part of Twin Cities’ history, providing a sense of hope for civil rights success. Too many today don’t know the significance of that ’60s decade that brought pride, dignity and inspiration to succeed to the African American community, qualities missing today.
Forgetting and stopping action began 25 years ago. Too much has been allowed to slip away, doing so in the name of progress for others but not for us, as we watch Black communities regressing regarding education, jobs, housing, health care, public safety, pride and tradition.
Today we are at the bottom in state rankings of education, employment, and economic development, and at the bottom of the rankings in health care and political implementation. We excel only in penitentiary populations, where we are the largest percentage by race.
We fondly remember the Boys of Summer 1965, professionals and collegiate, and the great men and women of color who tended to make a difference and who wanted to enable the Twin Cities to become a racial paradise in America.
For Ron’s hosted radio and TV show’s broadcast times, solutions papers, books, and archives, go to www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. To order his books, go to www.BeaconOnTheHillPress.com.