Having left the South Carolina cotton fields at age 15 to pursue his dream of playing baseball, Carle R. Long will be again honored this week in his hometown of Kinston, N.C. Long is a Negro League baseball star and the father of Sotello V. Long, Regional Minister of South Carolina. The elder Long will be honored at a minor league baseball game July 10, on "Carl Long Day" in Kinston, where he is expected to be joined by several former Negro League players, including John "Mule" Miles, who once hit 11 homers in 11 straight games.
Carl Long played with the celebrated Willie Mays and against the likes of homerun king Henry "Hammerin’ Hank" Aaron, when Long starred with the legendary Birmingham Black Barons in Negro League Baseball. Mays, one of the early black pioneers of major league baseball, would play alongside Long in the outfield for the Barons. After the major league season was over, the best black players would barnstorm with the Barons all over the country.
"He and I used to stand out there and try to burn each other down to see who could throw the hardest," said Long, 74, speaking of Mays. "I was young, strong, crazy and wasn’t giving up a thing. He was just like me. He was a young player and he was a heck of a ball player." Long also played against Jackie Robinson, who was on an all star team organized by Roy Campanella. Robinson broke the major league color barrier in 1947. "Jackie was a quiet man," Long said.
The Campanella All Star Team’s lineup consisted of a "Who’s Who" list in black baseball, recalled Long. Most of them had broken the color barriers on their major league teams. Robinson was at first base; James "Junior" Gilliam at second; Hank Thompson third; Gene Baker at shortstop; Cuban-American star Minnie Minoso played left field; Larry Doby was in center; Harry L. "Suitcase" Simpson in right and Campanella at catcher. The pitching corps included Don Newcombe, James "Mudcat" Grant; Robert Trice; and Joe Black. Luke Easter and other greats rounded out the squad.
Long was playing on the all star team with Robinson in Charlotte the first time Long’s 350-pound father, "Big" Bill Long, ever saw him play baseball. "When he came into the stadium, he yelled, ‘Hey, that’s my son!’ recalled Long, "even though Jackie was out there, too." Long also played baseball with Charley Pride, who would later become a star country western singer. Pride used to annoy his teammates by sitting in the back of the dugout while picking his guitar. "We used to tell him to shut that noise up; now he’s a millionaire," said Long
Born in Rock Hill, S.C., Long debuted in Negro League baseball at age 15. He played in that league with the Nashville Stars and the Barons. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954, where he played with St. Jean’s of Quebec, Canada, and on their other minor league teams. Along with Frank Washington, Long broke the color barrier in the Carolina League city of Kinston.
Before his career was cut short by a shoulder injury in 1959, Long set a record for batting in 111 runs in a season for Carolina League baseball. He was the first black deputy sheriff and city detective in Lenoir County and the first black bus driver in Kinston for Seashore Trailways. He has been inducted into the Negro League Baseball Hall of Fame and the Carolina League Baseball Hall of Fame. He was once managed by the remarkable Oscar Charleston, "the greatest center fielder who ever lived," said Long, "and that includes Mays." Charleston has been compared to baseball legends Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker.
"I couldn’t have done those things I did if it hadn’t have been for baseball," said Long. He now travels across the country speaking to youths about baseball, staying in school and the dangers of using drugs. He has spoken at most of the Disciples churches in the South Carolina Region.
By James Patterson