Travis Darden, 84, and Lawrence Tucker, 77, both recall the ups and downs of playing baseball in the South Texas Negro League.
“When you travel, you should always enter by the rear door. We went to Uvalde but couldn’t stay at the hotel or hotels there. Darden explained, “We had to travel to the Black side of town.”
This was normal for Black baseball players such as Darden, who pitched for the South Texas Negro League’s San Antonio Ramblers. Darden and Tucker recall their time on the team as if yesterday, even though the league began in the 1940s and disbanded in 1979.
“I was a San Antonio Black Socks, the San Antonio Reds, and the Kenwood Outlaws,” Tucker explained.
Darden dressed in a grey polo with beige embroidery that said “South Texas Negro League” to meet Tucker at Pittman-Sullivan and tell stories about their days on the sandlot. Darden remembered his Air Force days when his side went up 14-0 after the first inning.
“And then the white folks came up in the stands and yelled, ‘If the N’s score any more runs, we’re going to hang you all,” Darden said. We triumphed, but we had to summon the Air Force to accompany us off the field and out of town.” “As a result, we had to play defensive baseball for the remainder of the game.”
Darden wishes to preserve these great stories.
“We’re delighted we can give these interviews because they can see how difficult it was.” “There were times when we had to drink from a separate fountain,” Darden said.
Collecting memorabilia is another method to preserve history, but Darden adds that many antiques in houses accumulate dust and are tucked away in a closet. The South Texas Negro League artefacts and images have found a home in the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum. San Antonio’s Black heritage is preserved by this non-profit. Darden just went over to hand off a signed baseball card and then signed a baseball with the autographs of dozens of former players.
“A lot of history has been obliterated because we were not acknowledged here in San Antonio or Texas in the same way that a lot of the white teams were,” Darden added. “There are more baseball teams in high schools, primary schools, and junior high schools; if they placed more baseball than football and basketball, America would be a better place.”
Darden thinks this because he feels baseball had a role in desegregating America, yet African Americans presently make up barely 7% of Major League Baseball. As a result, he believes that revealing these experiences would inspire a new generation of Black athletes to participate in America’s sport.
Major League Baseball began adding Negro League records last year, giving Darden a feeling of pride.
“It gives you a sense of accomplishment,” Darden explains. “Now that you’ve been acknowledged for anything, that you’ve been a part of history.”