Singles and Smiles, How Artie Wilson Broke Baseball’s Color Barrier by Gaylon H. White; 2018; 201 pages; Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, MD; 978-1-5381-0790-4; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Central; 6/22/18-6/26/18
Why did I read this? Because i knew Artie. My wife, Ruthann, sewed for his wife, Dottie. When they would have appointments I would accompany Ruthann and talk baseball with Artie. He helped our youngest son, David with a report on Jackie Robinson, offering first hand recollections. He was a true gentleman and it is hard to believe that he left this mortal coil eight years. I like to think he is in a cornfield in Iowa playing ball with those he never had a chance to play with due to the segregation of sport for so many years.
Artie Wilson loved baseball. When he was 11 or 12 he took a job shining shoes so that he could buy a complete uniform before he was even on a team. He worked in the steel mills in Birmingham, Alabama and played shortstop for the company team. While there he lost the top of his thumb, so he squeezed a golf ball to strengthen his thumb so that he could properly grip and throw the ball. He joined the Birmingham Barons of the Negro American League and became one of the best hitters in the league. He was the cause of a grievance between Bill Veeck of the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees. He made it into a few games for the New York Giants 1951, put was sent to the minors because calling up Willie Mays would mean that there were too many blacks on the team. Artie played in the Pacific Coast League for years until he was injured, if he could have found a way he would have kept playing. This is a good account of the life of a good man. Artie is enshrined in the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame, the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, and the Puerto Rico Baseball Hall of Fame. He won four Pacific Coast League batting titles, he was a four time Negro League All Star selection, he and Piper Davis and considered one of the best double play combinations ever. More than everything else Artie was one hell of a man.