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Hey, Reggie, if I could talk to you about Birmingham and college football

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PHOTO: Reggie Jackson (R) with Birmingham teammate Dave Duncan and manager John McNamaa. They also were together later with the Oakland A’s.

Kirkus Book Review of THE RIGHT THING TO DO

Dear Mr. October:

I rewatched on Prime Video the documentary “Reggie” that first aired March 2023. As I correctly recalled, you said everything then that you stated on Fox’s coverage celebrating Willie Mays at Rickwood Field in Birmingham.

The difference, of course, was the Fox broadcast June 20 comments went viral on social media.

“Coming back here is not easy,” you said in response to Alex Rodriguez’s question. “The racism when I played here — the difficulty of going through different places where we traveled — fortunately I had a manager and team and I had players on the team that helped me get through it, but I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

That was all good stuff. But not enough media members and fans picked up on what you said in the documentary, even though what you said on the documentary was more informative. Your message in the documentary was supported by the presence of Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers – your 1967 Birmingham teammates as well as on three World Series championship teams in Oakland – sitting with you in the stands at Oakland’s stadium.

They were two White guys confirming everything you said with the regret of having lived such an ugly chapter of American history. Nothing you said on Fox or in the documentary was anger leading to hyperbole.

It’s good millions of Americans heard what you had to say on Fox and X (Twitter). But what Americans don’t understand is you weren’t alone. They took what you said as a revelation. Many Black athletes were experiencing similar indignities and racial abuse. The problem was the 1960s sports media avoided race.

What an informative story that would have been back then for the media to tell – a Black man from Philadelphia who played football and baseball at Arizona State treated disgracefully in Birmingham three years after President Lyndon Johnson signed 1964 Civil Rights Act on discrimination.

It’s a sports journalism failure then and now.

Against the backdrop of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, such a profound story might have awakened Americans otherwise indifferent to what was happening all around them? One of those indifferent individuals was Alabama coach Bear Bryant.

With your college football background under Frank Kush – a Duffy Daugherty Disciple – I’d love to tell you about the true pioneers of college football integration in the 1960s. The stories are told in my book: “THE RIGHT THING TO DO, The True Pioneers of College Football Integration in the 1960s.”

Integration of the South began with Darryl Hill as a senior transfer at Maryland in 1963, but the true pioneers were the Black players blazing a trail while enduring four seasons after they were recruited out of high school.

They included Bob Grant at Wake Forest in 1964; Warren McVea, Houston, 1964; Jerry LeVias, Southern Methodist, 1965; Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg, Kentucky, 1967 (after Nat Northington and Greg Prage preceded them in 1966); Lester McClain, Tennessee, 1967; and James Owens at Auburn, 1969.

All of them cleared a path to the 1970 USC-Alabama game, but they unjustly live in the shadow of Sam Cunningham due to myths surrounding Bear Bryant and the 1970 game. Cunningham himself admitted in 2016 LA Times interview the importance of the game has been exaggerated with “too much sauce.”

The myths were crafted to hide the abysmal equality records of Bryant and USC coach John McKay.

Bryant dragged his feet until 1970 when Alabama was the seventh of 10 SEC schools to integrate and 33 of 37 major southern programs were integrated. USC coach John McKay followed the unwritten quota limiting Black athletes to a half-dozen or so. His 1962 USC national championship team numbered only five Black players and his 1967 national title team only seven.

How could he justify those were his numbers in diverse and populace Los Angeles?

That’s one problem I had with a follow-up video I saw of you on X discussing Bear Bryant getting religion in 1970. What gave him religion was a Civil Rights lawsuit filed against him in 1969 by the Alabama Afro-American Student Association that he was going to lose.

The story of the true pioneers is the message I’d love to you hear to tell. I tried to get a message through to your messaging system at Reggie Jackson Honda Airport dealership near Raleigh, near where I live.

When you speak at the right moment, there’s a chance it will go viral.

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I invite you to follow me on Twitter @shanny4055

Click here for the Kirkus Book Reviews of THE RIGHT THING TO DO

Click here for the Kirkus Book Review of BUBBA’S DAD

The Right Thing To Do was also endorsed by the Vanderbilt Sports and Society Initiative.

Below are links to click on to purchase my books focused.

My books tell the true story of college football integration in the 1960s and address the myths and fiction that allowed a false narrative surrounding the 1970 USC-Alabama game to usurp the credit from the true pioneers. As I said when I spoke at the National Sports Media Association book festival, no two books provide an accurate portrayal more than RAYE OF LIGHT and THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

I’ll put my facts up against anybody, anytime, anywhere. Watch here.

Click here for my story on the 1962 Rose Bowl and Segregation awarded first place by the Football Writers Association of America. I tell untold stories on Michigan State’s leading role and the true pioneers of college football integration. Click here to read the summary as a first-place story.

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Click here to purchase The Right Thing To Do

THE RIGHT THING TO DO

The True Pioneers of College Football Integration in the 1960s

Foreword by Ruffin McNeill

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Click here to purchase Raye of Light.

RAYE OF LIGHT

Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the 1ntegration of College Football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans

Foreword by Tony Dungy

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Click here to purchase my children’s book, Bubba’s Dad, Duffy and College Football’s Underground Railroad

The book for now is only a Kindle version on Amazon. Print and audio platforms available soon.

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My next children’s book coming soon: How Duffy Put Hawaii on the Football Map

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