On June 10th, I was honored to be inducted into the Negro League Museum “Hall of Game”. This meant a lot to me because of several reasons. The League began because people of color were not accepted in the MLB. These were the men who set the stage for others such as myself and boyhood friend Larry Hisle to play in the Major Leagues.
The players played for the love of the game, enthusiasm, flair and above all, talent. They came to play in every game, whether it was hot, cold or rainy. They kept a positive attitude second to none, regardless of race. Knowing that they could play with anyone. I feel I was chosen because of these character factors.
From my childhood I always had these. My Mother said to my Father, Jr was going to be a ball player, not knowing what sport. Although I lost her at age 11, and my Dad at age 20, same day I found out I was going to the Major Leagues. Having to leave my Dad’s funeral to drive to Forbes Field in Pittsburgh to become a Major Leaguer.
As my life has had adversity. Some I sometimes question as to why. When I reached the Major Leagues I was platooned. I was asked to move to various positions, which was OK, because, I was in the lineup. There naturally was an adjustment period, but I made the adjustment. Rather than saying, he was a team player, some chose to say, he couldn’t play defense. Today, players are praised and most could not have
made those adjustments and kept offensive and productive numbers.
My confidence and positive attitude never changed until this day. My last two years were at worst unexplainable and not legitimate. You go from a batting championship followed by another productive .300 season to platooned play, knowing you can still hit and run for somebody.
At the end collusion said, you were done. Not angry, little disappointment in baseball, I know I deserved better. I wish my ability would have dictated my career. It was not to be.
Just for the record that was never told by many, I played the last 5 years with a bone spur in my shoulder that was not questioned or asked why I had trouble throwing the ball. Some members of the media chose a way out by saying he had trouble throwing. Of course!!. Even I asked a few of my teammates, they had no idea. I could have had surgery, but I was a ball player who did not complain. Fair coverage would have been nice and would have been fair to all. I learned years ago it is hard to turn a positive into a negative, but it happened. They tried.
Hitting a baseball was a gift that God gave me, and God should have been the one who told me when I was done.
Cooperstown, I was on my way! I have moved on as I am a motivational speaker. I know the ups and downs of life. I persevered knowing what I did, and more important, who I am. That is why I can relate to the Negro Leagues being denied.
This is why being inducted into the Negro League Museum “Hall of Game” means a lot to me.
To my fan base, I hope you enjoyed my playing, as I did playing. If so, we both can live with it.
Al “Scoop” Oliver
Thanks to the Negro League Museums Bob Kendricks