After 50 years, S.C. team hears cheers again

Little League World Series

August 27, 2005|By Andrew Carter | Andrew Carter,ORLANDO SENTINEL

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Fifty years ago, the team was leaving the field when a few muffled murmurs in the stands turned into a deafening chant.

"Let them play!"

"Let them play!"

The chant still resonates in the hearts and minds of the 1955 Cannon Street All-Stars today and brings that moment to life.

It brings them back to a time when they would have given anything to play in the Little League World Series, but weren't given the chance because of the color of their skin.

Six of the 14 Cannon Street Little Leaguers returned to the Little League World Series last week to be honored in a ceremony before Maitland, Fla., defeated Davenport, Iowa.

They came from inner-city Charleston, S.C., and they played on a field of crabgrass strewn with rocks and bricks.

"It was in the Little League charter not to discriminate - race, creed or color," said John Bailey, now 62. "But they did. It broke our little hearts."

Like 50 years ago, the players took the field. In 1955, they did so for a brief warmup; this time, it was for a ceremony. Both times, the applause was deafening.

Before the ceremony yesterday, Bailey sat along the first-base side with his two grandsons: Louis, 13, and Tyler, 12.

"They understand some of it, but not the whole impact of what happened to us," Bailey said.

"This was a baseball story, but it was a civil rights story, as well. In due time, I'm going to get them to understand that."

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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