A Long Way Home


“A Long Way Home: The Untold Story of Baseball’s Desegregation” is a 42-minute long testimonial documentary featuring a number of the key men who lived it from the Post-Jackie Robinson years forward, especially during the critical period of 1960s social change in which the more obvious walls of racial segregation came tumbling down in the deep South. Last night, Wednesday, June 14, 2016, a near houseful of us attended a special invitational showing of the film in Houston at the old River oaks Theater on West Grey and then stayed for a 60 minute panel show of players featured in the film, most of whom were also quite familiar to a local audience of Houston baseball fans.

The film was put together by Gaspar González, who has produced documentaries for the BBC, PBS, ESPN, and others. His credits include the national PBS release Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami, the Grantland short doc Gay Talese’s Address Book, and the ESPN 30 for 30 Short The Guerrilla Fighter. His work has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the American Cinematheque. He is the founder of Hammer and Nail Productions. Gonzalez was present and participated in the panel discussion.

When Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line in 1947, it took another generation of Black and Latino players to make the sport truly open to all. Playing in remote minor-league towns, these were the men who, before they could live their big-league dreams, first had to beat Jim Crow.

Featuring James “Mudcat” Grant, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Pérez, Jimmy Wynn, Grover “Deacon” Jones, J.R. Richard, Enos Cabell, Octavio “Cookie” Rojas, Orlando Peña, and Bobby Tolan, the film emphasizes how important it is to remember what really happened during the obvious period of desegregation and to never assume that the job is now done. The generations that come after us who were touched by the hateful barriers that segregation imposes have both a right and a responsibility to keep the lessons fresh and alive and the snake of racial hatred beheaded by the great power of love and contact

Jimmy Wynn, Grover “Deacon” Jones, J.R. Richard, Enos Cabell, and Bobby Tolan were present for last night’s screening. Melanie Lawson of KTRK-TV Channel 13 News served admirably as MC to the evening’s show.

Wisdom was falling upon the audience from participants like nuggets of gold. And it arguably may have been helped by a technical glitch. The venue had no facial lighting available for the group that sat before us near the stage, uttering pearls of wisdom at a steady rate for the children of the ages. Out of the darkness came a core of wisdom that we can only hope to sparsely summarize here, but we do recall some of the major high points – and these familiar voices spoke to us the truth from out of the darkness in ways that even strengthened our resolve to never allow anything that might cause us to slip back into the mire of what this country was like prior to Jackie Robinson, Dr. Martin Luther King, and others. All I can do here is allow them to flow through me this morning in italics below as they came at me last night from the words of men who actually lived the fight in baseball against an evil that even segregated people in the south by skin color when it came to restaurants, hotels, and public rest rooms.

Never think the battle is over for good. …. Love is the only answer for hate. …. Don’t assume that skin color or ethnicity any longer matters because the obvious forms of segregation have been put to rest. …. Even in 2017, if a club has a white guy and a black guy, both hitting .300 at the same position, the white guy will still get the job on close calls. …. To assure keeping your job, a black player has to be much better than his nearest white competitor and have the stats to show it. ….  Young black people must know and discuss the history of what their grandparents went through during segregation – and, (not expressed, but implied) …. even if young black people never have seen racial profiling, they need to keep in mind in all public situations that it can happen to any non-white person …. and that could get them killed if they fail to get that simple fact.

Self esteem grows from believing in yourself …. not from trying to be Willie Mays or Roberto Clemente. …. Believe in yourself …. believe in your own God-given abilities …. and go have the best life you can have in the Name of Love. …. Love Beats Hate Every Time. …. and that’s a headline to remember at the start of each day.

For more information about the film, check out this link:





2 Responses to “A Long Way Home”

  1. Mark W Says:

    Sounds good.

  2. bhick6 Says:

    Your third paragraph alludes to the difficulty of black players with teams in remote minor league towns in the 1950’s and 1960’s. There is a book on that topic which I’ve always considered to be important and well-written. It’s called “Brushing Back Jim Crow,” by Bruce Adelson, published in 1999 by The University Press of Virginia.

    Bill Hickman

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