A local Negro League baseball icon keeps the memories (good and bad) alive.
Photo by Jared Castaldi
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Stanley Glenn’s closest friends held on to their secret until a recent John Bartram High School reunion breakfast. Finally, the fellow octogenarians told Glenn about a visit a New York Yankees scout once paid to their Philadelphia school. He came looking for the strong-armed catcher known as “Slamming” Stanley Glenn, who knocked baseballs over a high fence and onto Elmwood Avenue. But when he learned that Glenn was black, he turned around and went home.
As one of the last living players in baseball’s Negro League, Glenn has known—and lived—plenty of injustices in the intervening years. The Yeadon resident could harbor an unsettling dissatisfaction with the inhumane treatment, the lack of press coverage, even the slipshod statistics that may forever keep deserving black players out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Penmar Park, where Glenn’s Philadelphia Stars played, was often “dirty.” It lacked sufficient lighting. Trains making the Belmont and Girard stops would bellow coal smoke into the games.
But Glenn, who turns 83 next month and remains president of the Negro League Baseball Players Association, isn’t bitter. In 2006, he titled his self-published book Don’t Let Anyone Take Your Joy Away.
“It’s true,” Glenn says of the title. “Unless you were black and lived in the South, no one could tell you all the things that either made you a good person or an angry person. My father—a true Christian—wouldn’t let us say anything about anyone in the house. He taught that you should love people for the sake of loving them.”
In recent years, America has come to love its remaining Negro League players. Sadly, only about 30 remain. This summer, the U.S. Postal Service released 44-cent tribute stamps featuring the league, which flourished from the 1920s to the late ’40s. There will be another reunion Aug. 14 at the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ Judy Johnson Night, held annually to honor the Negro League third baseman and 1975 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.
The middle of last decade, Philadelphia Stars Negro League Memorial Park was dedicated at Parkside Field’s original site. The centerpieces there are a 7-foot, 1,000-pound bronze statue of a Negro League player mounted on a 4-foot pedestal, and a mural honoring black baseball in the city. Future plans at the site include a Little League ball field and a Philadelphia Stars museum. The league also is represented at memorabilia and African-American history shows and conferences.
“[The recognition is] overdo, but it’s great,” says Glenn’s nephew, Cal Puriefoy, who handles media relations for the remaining Stars, a team in existence from 1933 to 1952.
Other than Glenn, surviving Stars include Harold Gould, Overbrook High School’s Bill “Ready” Cash and Mahlon Duckett (another Overbrook alum and the Negro National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1940). Just how bad was their struggle? “We don’t say ‘bad,’” Cash says. “It was worse than that.”
On a 28-day road trip in 1949, the Stars slept in a bed for just four hours. They couldn’t stay in hotels, eat in restaurants or use restrooms. They dressed under bleachers, not in team rooms.
“Everything was off-limits to us,” says Glenn. “I remember when we couldn’t go into the ballpark [as kids]. If you did get in, there was no place to sit—forget about even thinking about playing.”