Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Negro League Player Johnson Dies at 94

DENVER (Sept. 27) - Byron "Mex" Johnson, a shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro leagues and Satchel Paige's traveling team, died at 94.

Johnson died Saturday, and daughter Jacquelyn Benton said Tuesday he had prostate cancer.
Johnson played for the Monarchs in 1937-38, when blacks were barred from the National and American leagues. He joined the traveling team of the legendary pitcher Satchel Paige in 1939 and stayed through 1940.

"He never complained about how hard it was being a black baseball player, and he was never bitter that he didn't get to play" in the majors, said baseball researcher Jay Sanford, who knew Johnson for 20 years.

My love affair with baseball began at the age of six, and I simply didn't believe that there was a time when black players weren't allowed to play in the major leagues. Like a lot of things to learn about a complex sport, I thought it to be something that would come to me in an epiphany, and ya know what, I'm still waiting.

I'm not one of those who vilify the past, nor a promoter of new sorts of segregation to make amends for the wrongs of century's ago, but this does stick in my craw and always will.

RIP Byron, and save me a seat.

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