Ferguson Jenkins, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, former Cy Young Award winner, and a bobblehead night giveaway at Ray Winder Field thanks to the parts of three seasons he spent with the Arkansas Travelers from 1963 to 1965, was honored with a Canadian postage stamp in February to commemorate Black History Month.
His time with the Travs was recounted recently in a piece in the Toronto Globe and Mail, and his introduction to the Jim Crow South sounded pretty nasty thanks to the racist element that forever scarred Little Rock.
He was aged 20 when assigned to the Arkansas Travelers, a minor-league team based in Little Rock. Only six years earlier, an angry mob of violent whites confronted nine black students seeking to attend Central High School.
Those same elements did not welcome black athletes. On Opening Day in 1963, white supremacists picketed the ballpark with signs reading, “Don’t Negro-ize baseball.” Other signs included foul epithets.
“At the airport,” Mr. Jenkins remembered, “there were a couple of banners that said, ‘We don’t want black players.’ ”
Only those banners did not use the word black.
“It was a shock at the beginning. But I’d read about it in the paper, so I was used to it. We knew it was going to happen. They told four of us in spring training that we were going to Little Rock and could we handle the pressure.”
He was joined in integrating Arkansas baseball by the slugging Dick Allen, of Wampum, Pa., and fellow pitchers Marcelino Lopez, a Cuban, and Richard Quiroz, a Panamanian.
“The pressure was not on the field,” he said. “It was off the field.”
The 'idiots' responsible for the banners became less obvious once the team began winning. “They embraced us after a while,” he said.
-- Travelerocity reporter