by Brian Lewis

                    July 15, 2001 -- Before the Mets host Toronto today at
                    Shea, they will honor eight Negro League stars who
                    outlived Jim Crow and outlasted segregation. When the
                    Mets take the field, they will be wearing the uniforms of
                    the New York Cubans, in homage of the 1947 Negro
                    League World Series champions.

                    Chances are most of the fans in Flushing today have never
                    heard the names Armando Vasquez and James "Pee
                    Wee" Jenkins, who played for those Cubans, or Robert
                    Scott, who played for the Black Yankees.

                    For years, the Negro Leagues were ignored, as if not
                    talking about them somehow denied their existence, and
                    the segregation that spawned them.

                    But the 70 or so Negro Leaguers left are living proof of an
                    era when the U.S. sent black men to war, hoping they'd
                    never come back, an era that closed the door to
                    America's Game, as well as it's restaurants and movies
                    and hotels.

                    "[Former Yankee President] Lee MacPhail said we could
                    not play," rasped Stanley Glenn, who caught for the
                    Philadelphia Stars. "It just shows how narrow a person's
                    mind can be. For the last 35 years, that's bothered me.
                    No one should let you take their joy away."

                    Glenn, tall and regal as ever, with his graying heard and
                    glasses, joined former teammate Mahlon Duckett and
                    Scott at the Yogi Berra Museum last week for an exhibit
                    that honored their place at Yankee Stadium. It was a
                    place too long delayed.

                    The Yanks were one of the last teams to allow black
                    teams to use their park, just as they would be one of the
                    last with black players, until Elston Howard in 1955. But
                    the Lincoln Giants' John Henry "Pop" Lloyd - a Hall of
                    Famer Babe Ruth once called the best player ever -
                    convinced them to open the Stadium to the Negro

                    On the Yogi Berra Museum wall is a yellowed ad for that
                    July 5, 1930 debut, as the Giants beat the Baltimore Black
                    Sox. Over the next 20 years, Negro League play would
                    become a staple of the Stadium.

                    The Cubans had greats like Luis Tiant Sr., Hall of Famer
                    Martin Dihigo, and Felix Delgado, who returned to Puerto
                    Rico to run junior-league programs that produced Juan
                    Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez and the Alomars.

                    The Lincoln Giants evolved into the Black Yankees,
                    owned by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson; and Scott, who
                    played for them from 1946-49, can still remember the first
                    time he set foot in the Stadium.

                    "My first time there I asked my manager, 'Do we really get
                    to play on that grass?' It was so beautiful," said Scott,
                    smiling and tapping his walking stick on the floor. "You get
                    an eerie feeling playing there. Some of the greatest players
                    in history played there."

                    Glenn reminisced about crowds 40,000 strong, with the
                    men in suits and hats, and the ladies in dresses and long,
                    white gloves. And Duckett remembers the awe from the
                    first time he stepped out to second base.

                    "It's the greatest ballpark in the world. It was a great thrill
                    to play there," Duckett said. "My first time, when I walked
                    in and saw it, I couldn't believe I was there. I was a little
                    shook up."

                    It was hardly typical of Negro League existence, which
                    was often Spartan and sometimes dangerous. Times had
                    improved much from the 1890s when there was an
                    average of 187 reported lynchings a year; but they had not
                    improved enough.

                    Almost every survivor of the Negro Leagues can recall
                    horror stories of their Southern road trips, of bussing past
                    D.C. into an abyss of racism and hatred that threatened
                    their safety.

                    "When we [passed] Washington, I dreaded that," Duckett
                    said with a whistle. "There was so much going on down
                    there in those days: The Klan, people getting lynched. It
                    was really terrible."

                    Duckett remembers sleeping in buses, churches, even a
                    South Carolina funeral parlor; but by far the worst trip
                    was a trek through Mississippi with an all-star team.
                    Locals threw bricks through the windows of the bus, and
                    one of his teammates, a young Black Yankee infielder, got
                    hit in the head and lost an eye.

                    "We saw a state trooper. He asked us - I'll never forget
                    this as long as I live - 'Were they white?' We said 'Yeah.'
                    He said, 'Well, I didn't see anything,' " Duckett said. "You
                    never got used to it. But you just learned how to deal with it."

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