Pride held baseball, Negro Leagues dear

December 13th, 2020

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick was heartbroken on Saturday after learning that country music legend Charley Pride died from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 86.

“Oh, man. This year won’t stop. This is devastating. It’s one in a chain of devastating losses for baseball,” Kendrick said after learning of Pride’s passing. “He is part of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum family and spent many occasions at the museum supporting various museum events. I can’t wait to see 2020 end.”

Before becoming a country music star, Pride was a pitcher in the Negro Leagues in the early 1950s. According to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Pride played for the Memphis Red Sox and Birmingham Black Barons. He was known to have an above average curveball. Pride also had a stint in the Yankees’ Minor Leagues system.

A baseball signed by Pride is on display at the museum.

“It is a bit of a novelty for a lot of our guests when they discover that Pride played in the Negro Leagues,” Kendrick said. “Not only did he play in the Negro Leagues, he was a good pitcher who made his way into the Yankees organization before he hurt his arm. To the surprise of many, it was after he hurt his arm that he fell back on a pioneering country and western music career. I always tell our guests, ‘We should all have a fallback career like Charley Pride.’”

The love of baseball never left Pride. He would come to Spring Training and work out with the Rangers every year. The tradition dated to when the Rangers first came to Texas and held Spring Training in Pompano Beach, Fla., in 1972.

Pride was also a board member of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which presented Pride the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Pride was a regular at the museum’s golf tournaments. During one such event, Kendrick remembers former Major League pitcher Rick Sutcliffe had a guitar with him and tried to sing a song to Pride, who immediately took the guitar away from Sutcliffe.

“Charley said, ‘Oh, no, give me that guitar,’” Kendrick remembered. “Charley then basically performed for about an hour at our Buck O’Neil Golf Classic. You can’t make this stuff up. I joke with Rick about it all the time. That good time happened with Charley Pride in attendance. It was so special.”