Black baseball in Virginia: a special program

First and foremost, this is an invitation to save the date for a special afternoon: Sunday, Jan. 21, 3 p.m. at The Arts Center In Orange. The Orange County African American Historical Society (OCAAHS) will host its annual membership meeting highlighted by special guest, Darrell J. Howard.
Howard, who lives in Charlottesville, is the author of “‘Sunday Coming’: Black Baseball in Virginia,” published in 2002 by McFarland and Co.
The program is free and open to the public.  Howard is an entertaining speaker and well-researched in the history and stories of the local baseball teams that identified communities between 1930 and 1970.
The hometown Orange Nats were highly regarded and a few of the former players will hopefully be on hand to share some of their memories as well.
To whet your whistle of interest and curiosity, I have chosen to provide a few excerpts from Howard’s book below.  Please enjoy and plan to attend.
Excerpt from the Preface
“My journey along the trail of black baseball in Virginia has taken me from Sunday ballgames in rural cow pasture fields to semipro city parks and stadiums. Bringing the facts and stories together will preserve a historical part of Virginia’s African American community of the twentieth century, while recognizing athletes who performed and entertained for the love of the sport and competition.”
Excerpt from the Introduction
“Black baseball in Virginia was family and community baseball through Jim Crow segregation, the Civil Rights movement, and the early stages of integration. Nearly every community statewide had at least one black baseball team between 1930 and 1970. The ball team carried the banner of the community, so that communities became synonymous with the baseball team and the families who filled out the team.”
Orange County had two promising rival teams: The Barboursville Giants, with some players from adjoining Albemarle County and the town team known as the Orange Nats.

“The Giants had become a baseball powerhouse and none too soon for down the road in Orange County, manager James Washington was assembling a competitive young team to challenge Barboursville for the regional bragging rights.

Without question one of the greatest rivalries among black teams was the Barboursville versus Orange match-up. Orange played on the town diamond with lights while the Giants played in a reworked pasture. Fans, black and white, supported the Orange Nats … The stands overflowed to standing room only around Orange’s Porterfield Park.
Early match-ups between the town and country {sic} ball teams were one-sided in favor of the older more experienced Giants. It is believed that the first Orange win over Barboursville occurred in the summer of 1959. The young Nats pulled off a stunning 6-5 upset after trailing 5-0 early in the ball game. Orange used pitchers Walker T. Robinson and Mettress Murrill in the win.
These excerpts barely scratch the surface, but you have the grand opportunity to learn much more from the author himself. Hope to see you there.
Until next week, be well

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