SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A Black History Month event Sunday honoring a black baseball player from Springfield, and his white teammates, who stood up against racism 80 years ago.
Bunny Talifiero was the only African American on the state champion American Legion baseball team from Springfield in 1934. The team refused to play without Bunny for the national championship in North Carolina.
96-year-old Tony King is the last surviving member of that team. He recalls the southern intolerance of that era.
“We were scared, it was the first time we were away from home and it was down south,” said King. “They’d shoot them like animals; it was awful in those days.”
Springfield displayed the illustrations from the book “A Home Run for Bunny”. Members of Bunny’s family were thrilled with the honors.
“It’s just wonderful, the idea of African Americans of color being honored because of his legacy,” said Bunny’s grand-niece Sybil Wilkinson.
Author Richard Anderson was there, as well as the man whose illustrations were admired by the large crowd.
Illustrator Jerold Purnell said, “As soon as I read the story, I fell in love with it, and I saw the importance of the story, and I was just honored to be part of bringing that story to life.”
And at 96 Tony King is the last of that legendary team; the Springfield team that gave up its chance to win the national American Legion championship eighty years ago, rather than have racist officials deny their pitcher Bunny Tallifiero to take his place with the rest of his team.