Ex-Hawk Glenn Honors African-American Heroes

By Off the BASN Sports Wire By Terence Moore
Updated: December 17, 2005

GEORGIA—Nothing causes eyes to bulge more around Mike “Stinger” Glenn than when the old player and broadcaster for the Hawks uses his new role as philosopher and historian to tell the truth about Babe Ruth.

Let’s just say that whenever the conversation involves baseball’s all-time elite trio regarding home runs, Glenn doesn’t bother to mention the slugger who made pinstripes famous.

“The three guys with the most home runs are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds,” said Glenn, defiantly but pleasantly, before recalling what he usually hears after such a statement. “It gets people shouting, ‘Oh, Babe Ruth. You forgot him.’ And I’ll quickly say, ‘Nah. I’m talking about in integrated play. Babe Ruth played in a white league. I don’t think anybody should forget any of [Ruth’s] accomplishments. At the same time, we also have to acknowledge the great accomplishments of [African-American] forefathers and foremothers, including the father of athletics in America.”

He wasn’t Babe Ruth, by the way. He was Tom Molineaux, Glenn’s wonderful obsession these days. Molineaux was a freed enslaved man from Virginia who fought for the heavyweight championship of the world in London around the turn of the 19th century. We’re talking about 1810. Not only that, since Sunday is the 195th anniversary of Molineaux’s bout, Glenn will commemorate it all by launching a national tour of his rare collection involving African-American sports heroes with a free exhibit called “From Molineaux to Michael.”

That’s Michael as in Jordan, not Vick. The exhibit will take place at 3 p.m. inside of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. Glenn laughed when thinking of the gathering, which will include local dignitaries, and said, “We’ll even have a cake with Molineaux’s picture on it and words of gratitude. This man impacted overall history, because there was so much slavery in the world and talk that blacks were inferior, and then, boom. Here was this guy fighting for a world championship from America during the Colonial period when this country wasn’t respected in athletics. It put us on the map.”

If you’re wondering, Molineaux battled Englishman Tom Cribb for 31, 32, possibly 33 rounds (the records are incomplete) and was robbed. Thrice, if not more. Most strikingly, during the 19th round of what was a bare-fisted mix of boxing and wrestling, Molineaux pinned Cribb against the ropes for the longest time. A mob rushed the ring to pry Molineaux’s hands from the defending champ. At the end, a groggy Cribb was declared the winner over a groggy Molineaux.

Even so, Molineaux’s legacy lives, with an assist from Glenn, more noted for his shooting than his passing. During his decade as an NBA guard that included four seasons with the Hawks, he was as cerebral as he is now, but in a different way.

It was in the business way. “My last year with the Knicks, I got my stockbroker’s license and worked for Merrill Lynch, and I also got my MBA during the offseason,” said Glenn, a Snellville resident after growing up near Rome, where his parents were educators. In fact, he was his mother’s student in the third, fourth and fifth grades, and he had to recite quotations of historical figures on a daily basis.

Such memories resurfaced during Glenn’s broadcasting career with the Hawks when he spent his free time on the road in ways other than dissecting the Wall Street Journal. “I began to go to museums, rare book stores, auctions, and I was constantly reading about these different events in the past involving African-American athletes. I also started collecting items,” said Glenn, with items from the noted, such as Jesse Owens, and also from the obscure, such as Isaac Burns Murphy, the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys.

Glenn will take those items from Ebenezer, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s home church, to college campuses and elsewhere. When the tour ends, Glenn wants to have revolutionized how folks put sporting events into perspective.

“In a lot of cases, black athletes are made to be invisible, like they don’t have a history beyond a certain point,” Glenn said. “Folks will talk about the White Sox winning their first world championship since 1917. But why not mention, ‘Oh, by the way: The Chicago American Giants won 100 games that same year?’ They challenged anybody who would play them, and they may have been the best in the world.”

Folks could mention that.

Just like they could mention that Josh Gibson was better than Babe Ruth.