A Day To Remember

By Yolande Lezine
Updated: August 13, 2008

HOUSTON — The Houston Astros fielded a dream by hosting a celebration to honor Negro League Draft pick Bill Blair in a pregame ceremony at Minute Maid Park.

Blair, who was selected by the club as part of the 2008 Negro Leagues Special Draft held in conjunction with the 2008 MLB Draft, pitched for the Detroit Stars and Cincinnati Clowns.

He played six seasons in the Negro Leagues from 1946-51 and he once threw a no-hitter during a Denver Post Tournament.

African Americans were playing baseball in the late 1800’s on military teams, college teams, and company teams. However, they could not play on professional teams with white players due to widespread racism and “Jim Crow” laws.

As a result, black players formed their own units and “barnstormed” around the country playing anyone who would challenge them.

Blair, 86 was born on October 17, 1921 in Dallas. He attended Prairie View A&M University and after six months he enlisted in the United States Army. He was the youngest sergeant to serve in the Army in 1945 during World War II.

In 1948, he became the founder and owner of Southwest Sports News, a newspaper that specialized in publishing scores from African-American college games throughout the United States.

It was renamed Elite News in 1960 and is still being published today.

Blair was the centerpiece of the day-long “Fielding The Dream” celebration. He led a special discussion about the Negro Leagues and his personal experiences with members of the Texas Southern and Prairie View baseball teams.

He later made his way to the Houston Astros clubhouse where he got to dress in his own full uniform at his own locker. He then took to the field with Astro manager Cecil Cooper and the rest of the team during batting practice.

A private reception was held in an Astros suite at Minute Maid Park prior to the game.Attendees included: Pam Gardner, Ricky Bennett, Enos Cabell, J.R. Richard, and Marian Harper of the Astros, as well as Blair and many members of his family.

“I will never forget this day for it is one of the greatest moments in my life,” Blair said. “I want to thank everyone for thinking enough of me to do this. We appreciate all that the Astros organization has done because no one has ever done this.”

Other special guest in attendance included: HPD Police Chief Harold Hurtt, TSU President Dr. John Rudley, TSU Athletic Director Charles McClelland, Forward Times Managing Editor Karen Carter Richards, Paulette Peoples, Lester McPeters, and James “Mr. Baseball” Montgomery.