Reggie Jackson describes experiencing racism at Rickwood Field, saying he wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

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Former Negro League stars gathered at Rickwood Field, where Willie Mays made his professional debut, to honor the history of Black baseball legends. Reggie Jackson, though he missed the Negro League era, played minor league baseball at this iconic Birmingham, Alabama, field.

Jackson suited up for the Birmingham Black Barons, a minor league affiliate of the Kansas City Athletics. Despite the official end of segregation, racism persisted in the area.

Reflecting on his experiences, Jackson spoke candidly to the MLB on FOX team before a Giants-Cardinals game at Rickwood. He expressed the difficulties of returning to the field, recalling the racism he encountered during his time there.

“The racism when I played here, the challenges of traveling through different places… I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” Jackson began, highlighting the harsh realities he faced.

“When I walked into restaurants, they would point at me and say, ‘that n—– can’t eat here.’ At hotels, they’d say, ‘that n—– can’t stay here.’ Even at [former A’s owner] Charlie Finley’s country club, they pointed me out with the n-word, saying, ‘he can’t come in here…’”

Jackson’s recollection extended to the support he received from teammates and friends during those trying times. “Had it not been for Rollie Fingers, Johnny McNamara, Dave Duncan, Joe and Sharron Rudy, I slept on their couch three or four nights a week for about a month and a half. Finally, they threatened to burn our apartment complex down unless I got out. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

Despite these challenges, Jackson persevered to become a baseball legend, ultimately hitting 563 home runs in his Hall of Fame career. His performance in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, where he hit three home runs to clinch the title for the Yankees against the Dodgers, earned him the nickname “Mr. October.”

Jackson’s journey through the racially charged landscape of minor league baseball reflects a tumultuous period in American history. His experiences shed light on the enduring impact of racism and segregation in sports and society at large, underscoring the resilience and determination required to overcome such barriers.

As Jackson and his fellow former Negro League players gathered at Rickwood Field, their presence was a poignant reminder of the struggles and triumphs of Black athletes throughout history. Their stories resonate as testaments to courage and perseverance in the face of adversity, inspiring generations to confront injustice and strive for equality.

The celebration at Rickwood Field not only honored the legacy of Willie Mays and other Black baseball pioneers but also served as a platform for reflection on the progress made and the challenges that still lie ahead in the ongoing fight for racial equality in sports and beyond.

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