SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The story of Bunny Taliaferro is Springfield’s Civil Rights movement.
A first pitch symbolizes the start of a baseball game. But a first pitch 81 years in the making signals the start of a movement.
You see, it was in 1934 that Tony King and his baseball team, Springfield’s American Legion Post 21, refused to play a game of ball in Gastonia, North Carolina. Their one black player, Bunny Taliaferro, wasn’t allowed to play, so none of them did.
That stand against racism is a message all too true today, especially with the most recent racist massacre at a Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Richard Anderson, the author of the book “A Home Run for Bunny”, said, “To think that what took place in Gastonia 1934 is only a 15-20 minute drive from South Carolina.”
Gastonia Mayor John Bridgeman wrote an apology letter to the City of Springfield. “It’s not like that anymore. That’s basically what the letter said. I’m sorry for what happened, it happened, I can’t change that. I’ve talked to my council, they want to correct a wrong.”
The best way to do that: a game of ball. Sunday, a new generation of Springfield Legion Post 21 players met Gastonia’s Post 23 team, to play for Bunny and for the team’s last surviving member, Tony King.
Springfield Post 21’s Gio Rodriguez said, “It’s an honor, honestly, and especially, you know, I’m a second baseman, he’s a second baseman. He’s a captain. In my eyes, he’s a hero. He’s a huge hero.”
A hero too, to Moe Hill, Gastonia’s first black baseball player, who later played professionally. “After seeing the reception that we got when we got here, I would’ve really hated it that I didn’t come. I’d like to thank all of you. God bless you.”
Then it was time. Tony King got to throw that first pitch. “I think it’s wonderful.” he said. “I don’t know how I deserved anything this wonderful. I’ll tell you. It’s great. I appreciate it.”
Due to heavy rains, that would be the beginning and the end of the historic game.
The two teams didn’t get to play their commemorative game, but it was never about winning or losing. It was, and still is, about doing the right thing.