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.

16 thoughts on “Yankees Wearing the Confederate Battle Flag

  1. Chuck Brown August 13, 2011 / 12:35 pm

    Interesting article. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Paul’s explanation, though unconfirmed, seems pretty logical. Somehow, I still find the whole thing disturbing–unsettling even. Thanks for the post, Brooks.

    • Ray O'Hara August 13, 2011 / 1:30 pm

      There was a time when the CSA and the CBF were seen mainly as being nonconformist and the racial angle not really on anybodies radar. Times and perceptions changed and the CBF became to be seen for what it was.

      I always thought Walpole’s use of it odd, not for racial reasons but because it honored treason. there was little outcry from Blacks as there were f/are few in the county{Norfolk County Ma} which only dipped below 90% white in the last census and Blacks are less than 4% of the county’s population, Walpole is still 95% white.{not an unusual percent in the county, my HS had three{3} Black students out of 1900 students}
      Mass according to the last census has a Black population of 6.6%.

  2. Ray O'Hara August 13, 2011 / 12:52 pm

    Leaving aside a mis-name team in the Bronx, {real Yankees come from New England}

    Walpole{Mass} HS a local high school that is in the same sports league as my HS uses the name Rebels for their sports teams nickname. They used the CBF as their logo for years until PCism got them to change it. the CBF though it is still displayed by fans as this pic shows
    http://www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2010/05/25/in_walpole_rebels_pride_still_sparks_a_fight/

    they replaced it with crossed sabres
    http://www.walpolehighfootball.com/

    My HS uses the name Marauders and the logo was a screaming Indian
    http://www.sanfacon.com/mascots/news_NE88.html

    it too succumbed to PCism and now the helmet logo is a D in a circle.

    the Boston Red Sox were the last team to sign a Black player, the eminently forgettable Pumpsie Green, when people use this to bash the Sox and Boston they generally ignore the fact that owner Tom Yawkey was a South Carolinian who throughout his tenure as owner maintained his home in SC. Green was signed because he was no threat to replace a White starter , the Sox originally owned the rights to a young player called Willie Mays but as he would have been a threat to replace a White starter he was never given a chance and his rights given way {WE COULDA HAD FREAKIN WILLIE MAYS!!!! , BURN IN HELL TOM YAWKEY!!!}

    My oldest sister when visiting NYC in the early 70s found herself in a hotel elevator with Roy White, “The Sitck” Gene Michaels ,Horace Clark and Fred Stanley. they were very nice and signed autographs for her and she remembers them as being very nice and polite.

  3. James Kabala August 13, 2011 / 5:15 pm

    Tom Yawkey was actually from Michigan, although he did have a vacation home in South Carolina, as noted, and actual native Southerners (notably Texan Pinky Higgins) also played a role in the Red Sox’ tardy integration.

  4. Steve Basic August 13, 2011 / 9:38 pm

    Brooks,

    Great stuff, and had no clue about this. As I always say, I learn something new every day. As to Roy White, one of the forgotten clutch Yankees. He always seemed to make a key play, or come up with a clutch hit. Have not read it yet, but he recently released a bio. of his years in the Pinstripes. My fave players on those Yankees teams of the late ’70s were Munson, White and Piniella.

    Hope all is well.

    Steve

  5. Terry Walbert August 14, 2011 / 7:32 am

    Seeing Fritz Peterson’s name in your blog brought back memories of the wife-swapping incident with fellow Yankee pitcher Mike Kekich. I believe the Yankees traded both during the 1969 season. At the time some sports writers observed that both Peterson and Kekich were left handers.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 14, 2011 / 9:51 am

      Actually, both guys hung around in pinstripes past 1969, and the family-swapping took place in 1973. Peterson was traded during 1974; Kekich was traded the previous year. Both guys were traded to Cleveland, but the Indians released Kekich before trading for Peterson. Peterson was a fairly good pitcher, winning 20 and being named to the All-Star team in 1970.

  6. John Foskett August 14, 2011 / 7:41 am

    For another time, here’s something a long-time Isles fan can use to refresh his memories. (And I apologize for the current home page entry saluting the 2011 Cup winners).. There’s at least one design which might actually have been improved with a Rebel flag. Seriously, though, interesting and puzzling stuff.

    http://www.nhluniforms.com/

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 14, 2011 / 9:44 am

      The only things wrong with the wave uniform were (a) the primary logo (b) the wavy lettering/numbering. I liked the lighthouse logo, and the jersey with the old primary logo and the design is fine (especially if they made it a third jersey). I also hate the Reebok template.

  7. JosephineSouthern August 14, 2011 / 8:28 am

    Here I go again. You know why that patch disappeared! The USA Empire, well We were forced back into the USA and in 1990s the Confederate American is again Out of the USA, a disenfranchised minority labeled Racist about any and every thing we say or do. No matter, if illegal immigrants can get by living here under the radar well then, so can I.

    “A 1991 NAACP resolution characterized the Confederate flag as “anodious blight upon the universe”and “the ugly symbol of idioticwhite supremacy racism and denigration” [sic]) and besides the Confederacy lies another, far broader, and much more radical agenda. The NAACP and similar groups want the removal and erasure not only of Confederate symbolism but also of awide range of symbols and icons from American history that have no association with the Confederacy or the ante-bellum South.”

    Fact is they have been hard at erasing us; they never let up. Everyday, in every way they will find some thing Confederate to protest. It would appear that the naacp had been so suscessful they had lost their power to raise a lot of money and needed a cause. And Morris Dees of splc was on the ropes too there just wasn’t enough bad people around so he was happy to oblige the naacp and save them both.

    Now all this hate ginned up by these people against the South as created a great divide and a political correctness in society that one can hardly abide.
    Hopefully the while the country is tanking we can at least slow down this rip off nonsense.

    Very helpful James to point out the Michigan birthplace. Helps to ease a bit the propaganda line of the Rays in our society. Oh, he was from South Carolina. When you read the right stuff you find that the South even in 1861 had many friends born North of the Mason Dixon line. And if you take the time to read some biographies you will find many of them served the Confederate States of America. None of this is hardly noted by our esteemed history profs they are too busy going over and over the slavery issue. So, Teach thyself – you will not get it in your gut anywhere else.

  8. JosephineSouthern August 14, 2011 / 8:35 am

    ps: Baseball is my love. Sure I remember Mickey Mantle, who wouldn’t. My father was very good at it, when he was 18 he had a contract with Beaumont in the 1930s paid him $100 a month during the depression, not bad. His uncle had a hotel across from the train station in Shreveport, Louisiana where all the baseball scouts and players came to try out. Texarkana was another baseball scout hot spot, because the trains crisscrossed there.
    Texarkana was named for Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana that bordered the city.

  9. JosephineSouthern August 14, 2011 / 9:31 am

    Here I go again. You know why that patch disappeared. In The USA Empire, We were forced back into the USA in 1865 and then in the 1990s the Confederate American is once again Out of the USA; a disenfranchised minority labeled Racist about any and every thing we say or do. No matter, if illegal immigrants can get by living here under the radar well then, so can I.
    “A 1991 NAACP resolution characterized the Confederate flag as “an odious blight upon the universe”and “the ugly symbol of idiotic white supremacy racism and denigration” [sic]) and besides the Confederacy lies another, far broader, and much more radical agenda. The NAACP and similar groups want the removal and erasure not only of Confederate symbolism but also of a wide range of symbols and icons from American history that have no association with the Confederacy or the antebellum South.” from url: http://www.scribd.com/doc/45695365/200007-American-Renaissance
    Fact is they have been hard at erasing us; they never let up. Everyday, in every way they will find some thing Confederate to protest. It would appear that the naacp had been so sucessful they had lost their power to raise a lot of money and needed a cause. And Morris Dees of splc was on the ropes too there just wasn’t enough bad racist Southern people around anymore to fill up their coffers.
    Now all this hate ginned up by these people against the South has created a great divide and a political correctness in society that one can hardly abide which has echos of the events 1830-1860. (The South Under Siege 1830-2000 by Frank Conner). Hopefully while the country is tanking we can at least slow down this rip off nonsense.
    Very helpful James to point out the Michigan birthplace of the owner of the team. Helps to ease a bit the propaganda line of the Rays in our society, jumping up and down waving their arms about, yea figures, he was from South Carolina.
    When you read the right stuff you find that the South even in 1861 had many friends born North of the Mason Dixon line. And if you take the time to read some biographies you will find many of them served the Confederate States of America. None of this is hardly noted by our esteemed history profs they are too busy going over and over the slavery issue. So, Teach thyself – you will not get it in your gut anywhere else.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 14, 2011 / 9:57 am

      The Yankees moved their team from Columbus after the 1966 season. That’s why the patch disappeared … so did the team. The whole point of Paul’s article was that things are a little more complex than we might think.

      Still waiting on your response to Dr. Hill’s remarks, especially given how you feel about hatred.

      Finally, Josephine, why don’t you tell our readers how much you’ve read of my publications — yes, real books — to support your claims about what “history profs” write. After all, you can’t say that you know what I say in my publications if you haven’t read them. Otherwise, you would look rather foolish and ignorant.

    • Ray O'Hara August 14, 2011 / 11:09 am

      Yes Jo. how dare the NAACP not honor the CSA after all it did for them.
      life time guaranteed employment being the foremost.

      As for Yawkey born in Mi
      Pat Cleburne was born in Ireland, Archibald Gracie in NYC, are they now not considered southerner because of that?.
      How is the standing of David Glasgow Farragut among your crowd, he was a Tennessee boy, there is even a town there named for him.

      it’s not where you’re born but where you choose to live.

  10. JosephineSouthern August 14, 2011 / 11:40 am

    aw ray you say Yes Jo. how dare the NAACP not honor the CSA after all it did for them.
    life time guaranteed employment being the foremost.

    hum, I’l bet you a dollar the Somalies would like that about now!

  11. Ray O'Hara August 14, 2011 / 12:44 pm

    And you’d find yourself out a dollar. which would you choose? beatings, rape and forced labor or a life of crime and piracy.
    and Africa’s problems today can be traced to the colonial practices of the Europeans.

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