CAROLINA CRISIS: THIS IS BIGGER THAN YOU By Michael...
By By Kevin Wilson
Updated: August 29, 2011
MARYLAND, (BASN)—Joe Louis Reliford, at age 10, sought employment in the rural area of Fitzgerald, Georgia, to support his mother, who suffered from arthritis. He and his friend, boldly crossed the railroad tracks after watching an all white minor league team, for nearly two weeks, from afar. The manager, for the Fitzgerald Pioneers, Charley Ridgeway, noticed two African American boys approaching him. Immediately, practice came to a complete halt, as Joe asked the manager for a job.
Manager Ridgeway drove Joe and his friend to the Reliford’s home. When they entered the home, Joe introduced the manager to his mother, who sat on the couch soaking her hands in warm water. Manager Ridgeway explained clearly that he could use Joe as the Batboy with permission. Gleefully, Mrs. Reliford approved. Joe earned $68 per week for monitoring 50 bats and balls, and shining 28 pairs of cleats.
Two years later, in Statesboro, Georgia, the Pioneers, then farm team for the Kansas City A’s, now called the Oakland A’s, played the Statesboro Pilots- farm team for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Losing terribly, 13-0, in the last inning, the opposing crowd began to chant,” Put the Batboy in the game!” They wanted some entertainment. Manager Ridgeway approached home plate and asked the umpire could Joe play. The umpire allowed a 12 year old batboy to pinch hit, throw out a runner and rob a batter from a homerun…. all in one inning. In doing so, Joe Louis Reliford, made history and fame unintentionally. He then became the youngest pro baseball player to ever participate in a pro game. Joe’s last inning catch is presently in Cooperstown, New York. He was mobbed in jubilation after making that heroic catch and the crowd poured money into his pockets. The Douglas, Georgia native is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “The World’s Youngest Pro Baseball Player” – Author of, ” From Batboy To The Hall of Fame.” He received a resolution from the Georgia State Senate in 1991 for making American Baseball History, unplanned. He paved the way for Hall of Famers- Willie McCovey and Frank Robinson in the Georgia State Baseball League, among others. In 2006, the trendsetter, met over 2500 kids in Cooperstown- Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. Thanks to veteran Sportscaster James Brown, Reliford threw out the first pitch at Washington Nationals Stadium – June 25, 2008.
In high school, Reliford was a superb student athlete and received a scholarship for football at Florida A&M University. He accomplished a fantastic career in law enforcement and as a commissioner in the City of Douglas.