SAN ANTONIO — Both 84-year-old Travis Darden and 77-year-old Lawrence Tucker remember the highs and lows of playing Baseball in the South Texas Negro League.
“Going in the back door of anything when you travel. We go[sic] to Uvalde and we couldn’t stay at the hotel, motels there. We had to go to the Black side of town,” Darden said.
This was common for Black baseball players like Darden, who played for the San Antonio Ramblers, a team in the South Texas Negro League. The league started in the 40s and ended in 1979, but Darden and Tucker remember their time on the team like it was yesterday.
“I played with the San Antonio Black Socks, the San Antonio Reds, Kenwood Outlaws,” Tucker said.
Darden sported his grey polo and a beige stitching that said “South Texas Negro League” to meet Tucker at Pittman-Sullivan to share staories about their time on the sandlot. Darden recalled his playing days on the Air Force when his team was up 14-0 after the first inning.
“And then the white people stood up in the stands and they said ‘if you N’s score any more runs, we are going to hang all of you,” Darden said. “So, we had to play defensive baseball for the rest of the game. We won but we had to call the Air Force to come and escort us off of the field and out of town.”
It’s these powerful stories Darden wants to preserve.
“We are glad that we can give these interviews, so we can let them know that it wasn’t easy. It was many a time where we had to drink from a separate fountain,” Darden said.
Collecting memorabilia is another avenue to preserve history, but Darden says lots of artifacts collect dust in the homes, and are stored away in a closet. San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM) has been a home for memorabilia and photos of the South Texas Negro League. The nonprofit preserves Black history in San Antonio. Darden recently stopped by to drop off a signed baseball card and then signed a baseball filled with dozens of former players’ signatures.
“A lot of history has been erased because we were not recognized here in San Antonio or in Texas as a lot of the white teams were recognized,” Darden said. “The high schools, the elementary schools, the junior high schools have more baseball teams, if they put more baseball than football and basketball it would be a better America.”
Darden says this because he believes baseball helped desegregate America, but now African Americans only make up 7% of Major League Baseball. So, he hopes that telling these stories can influence a young generation of Black athletes to pursue America's pastime.
Last year, Major League Baseball started incorporating Negro League records, giving Darden a sense of pride.
“It makes you feel that you accomplished something,” Darden says. “Now that you are being recognized for something, that you were a part of history.