John Holway / Negro Leagues
KUHN AND CIVIL RIGHTS
By John B Holway
The press obituaries of former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn touched on many praiseworthy qualities of a generally decent man. However, they left out one serious blemish on Kuhns record at a moment when the issue was at the center of national turmoil. I refer to the question of racial equality in baseball.
In about 1969 I interested Ira Glasser, head of the ACLU, to support the cause of opening Cooperstown to Satchel Paige and other Negro Leaguers. He agreed and made an appointment for us to meet with Kuhn.
Bowie declined to meet us personally but sent one of his attorneys to talk to us. After we made our case, the attorney excused himself for consultation. When he rejoined us, he said the Hall of Fame was a private organization and not subject to the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitution and therefore the commissioner could not support our request.
It was left up to Ted Williams to say what the official spokesman of baseball would not.
When Kuhn had a chance to play a leadership role in a critical social issue for the game and for the nation, he declined to stand up and speak out. Instead, he remained seated and remained silent.
/// John B. Holway is author of The Complete Book of the Negro Leagues, the Other Half of Baseball History and numerous other books on baseball history. ///