This article is posted in partnership with the Topeka and Shawnee Co. Public Library.
Widely known as an award-winning country music artist, helping to pioneer that genre for African Americans, Charley Pride (b. 1938) had a baseball career before turning to music.
Pride played in the Negro Leagues in the 1950s: some outfield, but he mostly pitched intimidating fastballs, sneaky curves and knuckleballs for teams including the Memphis Red Sox and Birmingham Black Barons. After an injury affected his pitching, interest from major league scouts waned and he never made it into the American or National Leagues. His last gasp was angling for a tryout with the 1962 New York Mets. When that fell through, that part of his baseball dream was lost. Pride “fell back” on a hugely successful Hall of Fame country music career… and the ’62 Mets went on to infamy with perhaps the worst season in major league baseball history.
In 2013, he was presented the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. In an interview at the time, Pride mentioned how Robinson was an inspiration. “When I saw Jackie Robinson go to the majors, I thought, ‘Here’s my chance out of the cotton field.’” The young boy from Sledge, Mississippi certainly made it, though not quite as he imagined.
Charley Pride’s interest in baseball came full circle in 2010. With Nolan Ryan and a number of other partners, he now owns a share of the Texas Rangers MLB franchise. If he’s not on a concert tour or the golf course, chances are he’s at the Ranger’s game.