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For induction, Negro leaguers left without tickets to the big show


COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- They sat in the back of J. J. Newberry's, a five-and-dime store adjacent to the Hall of Fame, 23 Negro leaguers signing autographs.

Some of them played against Leon Day. One played with him. Most never saw his induction.

"We're catching the bus to go back to Albany at 1:30 p.m.," Homestead Grays pitcher Wilmer Fields, of Manassas, Va., said.

The ceremony started at 2:30 p.m.

"I guess I'll get somebody to tell me how it was when I get back home," New York Cubans outfielder Russell Awkard, of Rockville, said.

Fields, Awkard and Stanley Glenn had played against Day and said the promoter of the autograph show had promised them tickets.

Sitting on the lawn with 25,000 other people was out of the question.

"They're too old, there was no transportation," said Glenn, a Philadelphia Stars infielder. "These guys were under the impression they were going to see the ceremony."

The promoter, Jack Berke of New York City, denied that he promised them tickets.

"I told them I was going to try," Berke said.

Berke said he had asked other former players, but not the Hall of Fame, for tickets.

"We took care of everybody that asked us for tickets," said Hall of Fame public relations director Jeff Idelson.

Some Negro leaguers had tickets. The seven who came up on the buses from Baltimore went as guests of Day's widow, Geraldine.

Buck O'Neil received a ticket as a member of the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee. "It's too damn hot for these guys to be sitting out there, anyway," O'Neil said.

Joe Black, the former Baltimore Elite Giants pitcher, was not too upset, either.

"What are they going to do, let everybody in who played for the Phillies?" Black said. "When Joe DiMaggio got in, did they let in every Italian?"

Autographs by Black and O'Neil sold for $10 apiece. The others sold for $8. They were signing a lithograph of Leon Day shaking hands with Satchel Paige in heaven, with the other players pictured below.

"We spent thousands of dollars to bring in these players for a tribute to Leon Day," Berke said. "Do you think we wouldn't want them to go to the induction?"

The saddest story came from Max Manning, Day's former teammate who gave him the news that he was in the Hall of Fame.

Manning did not have a ticket, received one at the last minute from a friend, but would not go to the ceremony until he and the other Negro leaguers had gotten paid.

"It depends on what happens here. This is a responsibility," TTC Manning said. "The big thing is I haven't been paid yet . . . but I really came here to go to the induction ceremony."

Manning didn't go. He and the others sat in a Cooperstown five-and-dime instead.

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