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Former Negro Leagues players to make appearances June 13 and 14

June 7, 2012

EAU CLAIRE — Former Negro Leagues baseball players Carl Long, Ray "Boo Boy" Knox and Heron "Cuba Lee" O'Neal, along with Gary Crawford, the chief operating officer of NegroLeagueLegends.org, will share their stories at a moderated panel presentation at 7 p.m. June 13 in the second-floor breezeway of McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The event is free and open to the public.

The former players' visit is in conjunction with a traveling exhibit, "Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience," on display through July 2 at McIntyre Library. The national traveling exhibit chronicles the remarkable history of baseball's Negro Leagues and the challenges and successes of African-American baseball players.

While in Eau Claire, Long, Knox, O'Neal and Crawford also will meet with youths participating in UW-Eau Claire's Wisconsin Youth Success Program, as well as high school history teachers taking the graduate course "History 691: Constructing Liberty Practicum," a collaboration between UW-Eau Claire's history department and the Chippewa Valley Museum. On June 14 the former Negro Leagues players will be special guests at the Eau Claire Express's Turn Back the Clock Night, which also marks the 60th anniversary of Hank Aaron's first at-bat in Eau Claire. Long, Knox and O'Neal will throw first pitches and be recognized on field at the game, which starts at 7 p.m. Before the game they will be available at the front gates to sell and sign memorabilia.

Long, a South Carolina native, is a former Negro Leagues and minor league outfielder who, along with Frank Washington, broke the race barrier in the Carolina League city of Kinston, N.C. Long made his debut for the Kinston Eagles on April 17, 1956. During that year, he hit .291 with 18 home runs and 111 runs batted in. The Carolina League itself had been integrated in 1951 by Percy Miller Jr. of the Danville Leafs. The 111 RBIs tallied by Long in 1956 have been equaled but never surpassed by any subsequent Kinston player. Long's professional debut came with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League in 1952. He stayed with Birmingham through the 1953 season. In 1954 he was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and was sent to their minor league team, the St. Jean Canadians of the Provincial League. Long played for the Billings Mustangs in the Pioneer League in 1955 and also saw some action for Phoenix in the Arizona-Mexico League. After playing for the Eagles in 1956, Long played for the Beaumont Pirates of the Big State League and Mexico City in 1957. A shoulder injury curtailed his career, and he left baseball to live in Kinston. Long continued to break barriers, becoming Kinston's first African-American bus driver as well as the first African-American deputy and detective in the Lenoir County sheriff's department.

Knox, a native of Illinois, was catcher for the Chicago American Giants in 1950. He acquired his nickname "Boo Boy" by saying, "They don't 'boo' those that are no good. They only 'boo' those that can play." He also played in the Industrial League in Chicago's Washington Park for Hardwood Sports.

O'Neal, who earned his nickname "Cuba Lee" from regularly being mistaken as Cuban, was born, raised and still lives in Chicago. He played for the Indianapolis Clowns, a franchise that lasted through 1988 but by the mid-1960's was a predominantly white team. During O'Neal's time the Clowns would tour the country and, in addition to playing professional baseball, would entertain the crowd. O'Neal played third base and other infield positions, and occasionally he would pitch. "You had to be versatile back then," O'Neal has said. "Otherwise, you'd never get a chance."

Crawford, a freelance baseball statistician and writer who has done research, statistics and graphics for such television networks as ESPN, CBS, NBC and FOX, is an advocate for former Negro Leagues players. Through NegroLeagueLegends.org, Crawford books former players for appearances and facilitates the sale of autographed memorabilia, making sure that all royalties and proceeds go directly to the players.

For more information about the "Pride and Passion" exhibit or the former Negro Leagues players who will visit Eau Claire, go to the McIntyre Library website or contact Kati Tvaruzka at 715-836-4522 or tvaruzke@uwec.edu.

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KT/JP/AH

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