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Former Reds visit 178 FW

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amy N. Adducchio
  • 178 FW/PA
     Three African American baseball players who made the leap from segregated to desegregated baseball in the 1950s and 1960s joined the 178th Fighter Wing for a presentation Feb. 5 at the Springfield Air National Guard Base, Ohio.

     Jane Esprit, the 178th Fighter Wing family readiness coordinator, arranged to have former Cincinnati Reds baseball players Charlie "Whip" Davis, Leo "Chico" Cardenas and Chuck Harmon speak to the 178 FW through the Seniors With A Purpose program.

     SWAP's original mission was to encourage minority youths to take interest in baseball, but it has evolved to include the importance of integrity and morals. Tony Williams, SWAP treasurer and 20-year neighbor of Mr. Harmon, introduced the former Reds players and facilitated the event.

     Because of the racial segregation of the time, these men played for the Negro League.

     "There will be no more like them," said Mr. Williams of the three. "There will never be another Negro League. There are about 100 Negro League players still alive."

     Several years after Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey desegregated professional baseball, the Cincinnati Reds introduced their first African American Reds player, Mr. Harmon, in 1954. In addition to his baseball career, Mr. Harmon played on two championship basketball teams in high school, and served three years in the U.S. Navy.

     Whip was a pitcher for the Memphis Red Sox from 1950 to 1955. Whip received his nickname from country music singer Charley Pride, who was at that time a Memphis Red Sox player, said Whip. This Red Sox player was the relief pitcher for Satchel Paige in the 1953 East/West All Star game. Whip became a Red when MLB held the 2008 Negro League Draft, which honored members of the Negro League who didn't switch over to the MLB.

     Chico, a short stop who emigrated from Cuba and spoke no English, played nine of his 16 Major League Baseball seasons for the Reds. Chico played in four All Star games and won a golden glove in 1965. 

     The former Reds talked about how the game, players and etiquette have changed. They also answered questions from those in attendance.
When asked about friction surrounding desegregation, Chico replied, "My game is baseball." The three agreed that they liked baseball so much, that they didn't worry about racism, they said.

     "These guys are the equivalent of the Tuskegee Airmen," said Master Sgt. Wes Haines, 178th Mission Support Group first sergeant and presentation attendee. Sergeant Haines grew up watching and playing baseball, he said. "We have three gentlemen here who paved the way, and it's great to be able to hear their perspectives."

     According to, more than 150 former Negro League players were integrated into professional baseball. With the best Negro League players gone, the league came to a close in 1952, said Mr. Williams.