It’s hard to believe that, not so long ago, blacks were forbidden from playing Major League Baseball. For a person like myself, born in 1970 and never experiencing the true meaning of segregation, it’s hard to comprehend. Alas, it’s true. One can be disappointed by this tarnished past, or be proud of how we, as a people, have overcome it.
Regardless, being excluded from “professional” baseball didn’t stop many from playing professional baseball, thanks to the Negro Leagues. Without such a league, we’d never have the opportunity to know some of the most talented athletes and colorful sports personalities to ever play the game.
The Negro Leagues brought to fame folks such as Andrew “Rube” Foster (a great pitcher and the founder of the Negro League), Satchel Paige (one of the best pitchers of all time), Josh Gibson (a power-hitting catcher)… and Prince Joe Henry.
Prince Joe has a special place for me and some friends, for a very special reason. A few years back, RedHawk (a player of my online baseball game, CSFBL) started a new league in our game: Negro League Tribute. After starting the league, RedHawk and TFM_Dale (another community member) got in touch with Negro League legend Prince Joe.
You’d think a guy in his 70’s wouldn’t care about two dozen baseball fans playing a simulated baseball game with a “tribute” to Negro League baseball… but that’s not Prince Joe Henry.
In the years since, both RedHawk and TFM_Dale spoke with Prince Joe often, and got to know him and his family quite well. Prince Joe was proud of his days as a Negro Leaguer (rightly so), and was proud that people not only admired what he did 50 years ago, but also admired the person he was today.
Having heard guys like RedHawk and TFM_Dale talk about Prince Joe, and having read other interviews with him, it’s pretty clear to me that he was a special person, both on and off the field.
Unfortunately for those of us who can read this, Prince Joe left us on January 2, 2009, at age 78. Baseball fans and other kind-hearted fun-loving folks mourn his loss… and heaven gets one heck of an infielder.