On May 4, at the SIAC Baseball Tournament, my alma mater,Tuskegee University, was preparing to play a baseball game that would put them in position to play in the championship game, if they won.
A Tuskegee player ran passed me and said, “Mr. Harvey, you know anything about this.”
I smiled and replied, “Yeah, I’ve been here before.”
He laughed and replied, “No, you don’t know anything about this.”
Little did he know that almost 45 years to the day, May 5, 1973, I had a similar date with destiny.
My Tuskegee teammates and I had already won the 1973 SIAC Baseball Championship by virtue of finishing first in the conference. We did not have a separate baseball tournament to decide the conference champion. In that day, there were no automatic NCAA bids for HBCU conference baseball champions. So in order to strengthen our chances of receiving an NCAA bid, Jim Martin, our coach, convinced the conference to host an All-Star game.
The All-Star game was played in Herndon Stadium on the campus of Morris Brown College in Atlanta. Herndon Stadium was the site of many Negro League games and the venue where Jackie Robinson would bring in a troupe of Negro major league players to play white major leaguers during the off season in the 1950s.
This is the only All-Star Baseball game the SIAC has ever held.
Since, we were the conference champions, we were pitted against the SIAC All-Stars. They were led by future hall of famer Andre Dawson. We countered with future major leaguer Roy Lee Jackson and gifted players like Richard “Buck” Shaw, Curtis Crump, Charles Allen and of course, that skinny kid, who ran real fast and read all those books on the team’s road trips.
Early in the game, I stole second base on the All-Star catcher from Morehouse, and scored what turned out to be the winning run.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the All-Stars had runners on first and third with two outs, the next batter hit a fly ball to right field where I was playing, as the ball approached me, I slipped on some dried grass cuttings, but maintained my balance to make a difficult play look routine.
Tuskegee 2, SIAC All-Stars 1. Yes, young man, I know what it is like to successfully compete on a high level. Our team went on to compete in the NCAA Eastern Regional that year which was held in Anniston, Alabama at Jacksonville State University.
And like the 2018 Tuskegee team, our season came to an end on a ball hit down the right field line. Everyone in the ballpark believed the ball Steve Duval hit traveled fair over the fence in right for a home run that would have tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Everyone except the umpire. He called the ball foul. Duval would eventually foul off 12 pitches before striking out to end a 25-7 season and my collegiate baseball career.
But unlike the 2018 version of the Golden Tigers, neither our coaches nor our fans shouted insults to the umpires. We left the park that day knowing we had played our best. We accepted the loss as another of life’s lessons on perseverance.
Yes, young man, I know something about all this.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at [email protected]