Yankees Wearing the Confederate Battle Flag

People who know me well know that I am a passionate fan of the New York Yankees, dating back to the days when Mickey Mantle was playing first base at the end of his career and a young fellow named Bobby Murcer was chasing balls around the monuments in center field, some 463 feet away from home plate.  Other people also know that one of the things that interests me about sports (more as a hobby) happens to be uniforms and equipment.  In the case of the Yankees, there has been little change, other than an array of patches and mourning bands, and one significant change in the away jersey in 1973 (the addition of white bordering the midnight blue of the team name and the uniform number as well as a new sleeve trim).  In the case of the New York Islanders, my favorite hockey team, uniform changes, especially the jersey and logo, have become something of an obsession with Islanders fans.

I’ve written before about the relationship between sports uniforms and history on Civil Warriors, and I’ve commented on how sports and history interact in other ways.  I’ll repost those links soon.  But someone who knows of my interest in uniforms is Paul Lukas, who runs a terrific blog called Uni Watch.  I’ve contributed a few items to his blog, despite the fact that he’s a Mets fan.  Paul also has a weekly column on espn.com, and this week’s column is of particular interest to me, both as a Yankees fan and as a historian.

This is a picture of Roy White, then a New York Yankees farmhand, posing in the uniform of the Columbus (Georgia) Yankees in 1964-1965.  Note the patch on his left sleeve.  White went on to play with the Yankees for over a decade, from the team’s low period in the mid-1960s to 1979.  He won two World Series rings and appeared in a third Series; he wore #6 long before Joe Torre did, and as a switch-hitter he had two very distinct batting stances.  Red Sox fans will recall that he scored ahead of Bucky Dent’s memorable home run in the October 2, 1978 playoff game against the Boston Red Sox.

Paul’s article shows that the whole team wore that patch in 1965; another picture shows that the uniform was also in use in 1964 (check out the use of the flag on the ball park) and 1966 (Paul has some followup information in his Uniwatch blog yesterday).  So far, he’s uncovered only one other team that wore the patch, the 1953 Birmingham Barons, and in that case, it was in fact a direct political statement.  Yes, even after Jackie Robinson, segregation continued in the minor leagues: I am currently reading Bill White’s autobiography, and I highly recommend it … and astute baseball and basketball fans will recall who later played for the Birmingham Barons.

Paul’s interviewed White as well as several teammates who later made it to the Yankees, including Fritz Peterson, Stan Bahnsen, and Mike Hegan (it’s Bahnsen’s tenure with the Columbus team in 1965 and not 1964 that allows me to date the team picture; Bahnsen won the first game I ever saw in Yankee Stadium, a 6-0 shutout on May 17, 1969, that some 10,651 fans attended, so I must be the “1”).  Check out what Paul has to say.  It offers a different take than the initial response many of you might have.

A Former Slave Writes His Master

I first heard the following document while I was a teaching assistant for Richard H. Sewell at the University of Wisconsin.  It appeared in several newspapers in the summer of 1865, and offers a humorous if pointed look at the worlds of slavery and freedom.

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy, —the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson),—and the children—Milly, Jane and Grundy—go to school and are learning well; the teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday- School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost- Marshal- General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve, and die if it comes to that, than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood, the great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.
P.S. —Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson