Africans in baseball and cricket

 
During one of my last interviews with the “bluesologist” Gil Scott-Heron, I told him that heavyweight boxing champion, Lennox Lewis, did not like hurting people.
 
Scott-Heron brushed me off, saying that if that was the case he should stop boxing and played cricket.
 
Gil’s Jamaican-born father, Gil Heron, was a professional soccer player and poet. 
He was featured in a 1947 Ebony magazine article which referred to him as the “Black Babe Ruth.”  
 
“Thanks” to U.S., British, French, German, Portuguese and Dutch imperialists, Africans in the Western Hemisphere were involved in both baseball and cricket.
 
Africans in the United States, Latin America, South America, the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) and former Dutch Caribbean islands played baseball. Those from the former British West Indies played cricket.
           
My father Norman Lee Richmond was a serious baseball man.
 
For some reason he was fascinated with first base and wanted me to play that position. I, however, told him I wanted to play center field like Willie Mays, the “say hey kid.”
 
I had two problems. Number one was Bobby Tolan and number two was Willie Crawford. Tolan and Crawford both attended the same Junior and Senior High Schools as I—Thomas Edison Jr. High and John C. Fremont High School—and wanted to play the same position. 
 
Bobby Tolan & Willie Crawford
           
Tolan is a former center and right fielder in Major League Baseball. The Los Angeles born Tolan, played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1965–68), Cincinnati Red (1969–73), San Diego Padres (1974–75, 1979), Philadelphia Phillies (1976–77) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1977).
 
He also played one season in Japan for the Nunki Hawks (1978). His son  Robbie Tolan was on the way to playing in the major league until a white cop, Jeffery Cotton, shot unarmed Tolan in Bellaire, Texas, on December 31, 2008. Cotton was acquitted on May 11, 2010 after a jury reached a verdict of not guilty.
 
The African community in Houston, as well as leaders and critics around the country, cite the case as an example of police brutality.
 
Willie Crawford was younger than Bobby Tolan. Crawford was born in Los Angeles on September 7, 1946. He joined our ancestors on August 27, 2004.
 
He was a Major League Baseball outfielder who played with Los Angeles Dodgers (1964–1975), St. Louis Cardinals (1976), Houston Astros (1977) and Oakland Athletics (1977). 
 
Crawford was a great, all-around athlete at Fremont High School in Los Angeles. He was All-City in both football (1963) and baseball. His 9.7 seconds 100 yard dash made him a highly recruited running back by colleges.
 
Long-time Dodger Tommy Lasorda, who was then a scout, signed Crawford for the Dodgers for $100,000, two days after he graduated from high school in 1964.
 
Esmond Kentish world class cricketer
         
I also have links with major cricket players.
 
Esmond Kentish who was born on November 21, 1916 and joined the ancestors on June 10, 2011 was my father-in-law.
 
Kentish was a Caribbean cricketer who played in two Tests from 1948 to 1954.
 
He was born in Cornwall Mountain, Westmoreland, Jamaica.
 
He was, at the time of his death, the oldest living West Indian Test cricketer and the fourth oldest Test cricketer from any country.
 
“In his professional life he was the first black General Manager of the Bank of Jamaica and was conferred with the Order of Distinction for services to the bank,” according to Dawn a Pakistani newspaper.
           
Kentish played for Oxford University ––winning a Blue at the age of 39––and Jamaica, making his West Indies debut in the fourth test against Gubby Allen's England side at his home ground Sabina Park in 1948.
 
He was overlooked for the next six years, however, before earning a recall for the first test against Len Hutton's England side in 1954, again at Sabina Park.
           
After retiring as a player, Kentish went on to become a director of the WICB and a life member of the Jamaica Cricket Association. He also managed the West Indies team in 1973 and 1975.
 
King of Swaziland only knew Marcus Garvey & Jack Johnson
 
The first time I met Mr. Kentish was in 1986. I was married to his daughter Kathleen Yvonne Kentish.
 
We listened to Jamaican radio and discussed African, African American and Caribbean history.
 
Free I, who died with Wolde Semayat (Peter Tosh), was on the radio. Free I was calling for a national holiday for Marcus Garvey, but Mr. Kentish did not agree.
 
His position was that there were too many holidays in August. My position was unlike Jamaica’s other national sheroes/heroes Nanny (of the Maroons)––Samuel Sharpe, George William Gordon, Paul Bogle, Norman Washington Manley, and Sir Alexander Bustamante––Garvey was internationally known.
 
John Henrik Clarke pointed out, “The King of Swaziland later told Mrs. Marcus Garvey that he knew the names of only two black men in the Western world: Jack Johnson, the boxer who defeated the white Jim Jeffries and Marcus Garvey.”
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