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MLB Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson opens up on racism he faced playing in Alabama

todayJune 22, 2024

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(NEW YORK) — Being back at Alabama’s Rickwood Field brought back painful memories for MLB Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who detailed the racism he experienced there in an appearance on a Fox Sports pregame show.

Jackson played at Rickwood Field in the minor leagues in the late 1960s. He said coming back to the area was “not easy.”

“The racism when I played here, the difficulty of going through different places where we traveled … I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” he said.

He said that he was not allowed to enter restaurants and hotels, threatened with arson and called slurs at the time.

“I walked into restaurants, and they would point at me and say, ‘The n—– can’t eat here.’ I would go to a hotel, and they would say, ‘The n—– can’t stay here,’” said Jackson. “We went to [Kansas City Athletics owner] Charlie Finley’s country club for a welcome home dinner, and they pointed me out with the N-word: ‘He can’t come in here.’ Finley marched the whole team out.”

Jackson thanked his team that stood by him despite the discrimination: “Fortunately, I had a manager in Johnny McNamara that, if I couldn’t eat in the place, nobody would eat. We’d get food to travel. If I couldn’t stay in a hotel, they’d drive to the next hotel and find a place where I could stay.”

He also recalled the Baptist Street Church bombing in 1963 in Birmingham, in which KKK members bombed a Black church and killed four Black girls, according to the FBI. No federal charges were filed at the time.

“I was ready to physically fight some — I would have got killed here because I would have beat someone’s a–, and you would have saw me in an oak tree somewhere,” he said, referring to the racist lynchings used to terrorize the Black community in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Jackson was attending the MLB’s tribute to the Negro Leagues, which was created due to segregation and racism in the sport, on Thursday when he shared his experiences.

The MLB tribute also honored Willie Mays, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game.

Mays got his start in the Negro Leagues with the Birmingham Black Barons at Rickwood Field in the 1940s. He died shortly before the tribute at 93.

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