I realize Kentucky where I was born and grew up is not known as a civil rights pioneer nor is it thought of as a center of baseball. However, I want to tell you about events during my youth in the 40s-50s. Growing up, Pee Wee Reese, key player for the Brooklyn Dodgers was a sports hero for all of us kids. Pee Wee grew up in Kentucky and played for the AAA Louisville Colonels before getting to the big leagues a few years ahead of Jackie Robinson. Pee Wee, then captain of the Dodgers, was instrumental in helping Jackie become accepted by players and baseball fans when Jackie first came to the Dodgers. A bronze sculpture of Pee Wee with his arm around Jackie memorializes their relationship. A. B. “Happy” Chandler, Kentucky Governor and Senator, was the Baseball Commissioner who approved Jackie joining the Dodgers.
At one of the Louisville Colonels games in the early 50’s, Pee Wee Reese autographed baseballs and these were given to all the kids in attendance. I still have that ball proudly on display.
Oh yes, Kentucky is the home of the “Louisville Slugger” bats.