Special night honors Elizabethton Blue Grays
BY IVAN SANDERS
Elizabethton by no means is exempt from social injustice as some people might still rather stick their nose up at another person of a different color or race, however, this community that many calls home still finds a way to lead those on the outside looking in as evidenced by a special night on Monday evening at Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark.
On a night set aside to honor the 1935-1955 Elizabethton Blue Grays, an independent semi-professional barnstorming Negro Baseball team which consisted of young men from Elizabethton, Johnson City, Kingsport, Greeneville, Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, Bristol, and Martinsville, Virginia, the Elizabethton High School baseball team wore replica jerseys in their game against Sullivan Central.
Prior to the start of the game, Jacey Augustus – Director and Founder of Cedar Grove Foundation that what was transpiring on this night should show the way for those who live outside this area and see how things should be done.
Family members of former Elizabethton Blue Gray players were present to throw out the first pitch of the game prior to the game getting underway.
And when Ms. Loretta Bowers took the mic and sang a heartfelt rendition of the National Anthem, goosebumps were chasing up both arms and the middle of the back to hear such a God-given voice.
While many don’t recognize names such James “Chick” Forney, Calvin “Cal” Taylor, Garland “Big Red” Norwood, Pat McGee, and Columbus “Ted” Hartsaw, these players will be remembered for playing baseball during the difficult times of America’s Jim Crow racial segregation, the Great Depression, World War I and II, and the Civil Rights era.
They weren’t afraid to play against the best as they went up against some of the best Negro League teams of the time including the Asheville Blues while some of the players also moved on to play with teams such as the Indianapolis Zulu Clowns, the Alabama Black Barons, and the Nashville Cubs.
The night was very well received and enjoyed by all in attendance and the game itself wasn’t half bad either if one is a fan of the Elizabethton Cyclones as the Cyclones won 14-2.
Augustus, who has been instrumental in tracking down much of the information and getting a marker established in memory of the team, thanked everyone for coming out and was presented an Elizabethton Blue Grays jersey by Elizabethton High School Athletic Director Forrest Holt and Cyclone head baseball coach Ryan Presnell.