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Negro League Advocate Seeks New Spotlight On Former Players

The Jackie Robinson Hall of Fame plaque. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The Jackie Robinson Hall of Fame plaque. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – An advocate for the surviving players from Negro league baseball is hoping a new film about Jackie Robinson – who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball – will lead to more recognition for the former players.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Gary Crawford, founder of NegroLeagueLegends.com, is probably the biggest and loudest supporter for the remaining Negro leagues players.

“I’m talking about honoring the men that are still alive. Jackie’s passing has not caused every player to die,” he said at an event on the South Side to help shine new light on the league, which started in Chicago in the late 1800s.

There are about 175 former Negro leaguers still alive today.

To hear Crawford tell it, the surviving Negro leaguers largely have been ignored by MLB, cultural institutions, and even the White House.

“The league started here. What excuse is that? There’s no excuse,” he said.

Why does he think that is?

“Out of sight, out of mind is one reason,” he said. “The other reason is a lot of people don’t give a … they don’t give a you know what.”

Crawford introduced some former Negro league players to help get the word out about the importance of honoring the league’s history.

Hank “Baby” Presswood played in the late 1940s and early 50s with the Cleveland Buckeyes and Kansas City Monarchs.

Now 91, Presswood said he still likes to strap on a pair of roller skates, much to his wife’s chagrin.

“At my age, I still ride my skates. My wife say she’s going to hid them, because she’s scared. She’s saying I got no business on them. You know how womens are,” he said.

Presswood said he and his wife have separate TVs during baseball season.

“I love baseball, and it hurts me so bad when the Cubs or White Sox lose,” he said. “Ooh, that hurts me so bad. I want the teams in the city to win, you know? But they can’t win all the time.”

Lou “the Grey Cat” Clarizio, who became the second white player to sign a contract in the Negro League in 1950, shared a story about his first at-bat against Hall of Famer and legendary Negro leagues pitcher Satchel Paige, when Clarizio played for the Chicago American Giants.

“Swish, boom, it was in the catcher’s mitt already. So I went to the dugout and I said to “Double Duty,” [Ted Radcliffe] I said ‘Hey, Duty, you know Satch for a long time, how do you hit that knuckleball of his?’ He said, ‘Lou, just pick one out and swing,” he said.

Clarizio, 81, also explained how he got the nickname “the Grey Cat.”

“Nowadays, they call everybody a dude or a stud. At that time, the men were all called cats,” he said. When they saw him, black players asked “who’s that grey cat?” and the name stuck.