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Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars To Be Honored

A proposed historical marker honoring the 1955 Cannon Street All-Star baseball team will be unveiled at a ceremony on Saturday, July 14, 2012, at 12 noon at the Arthur Christopher Community Center, 265 Fishburne Street, across from Burke High School. A panel discussion about the team will include historian Ramon Jackson, team historian Agustus Holt, Avery Research Center curator Curtis Franks, and retired school administrator and coach Eugene Graves. Graves was closely associated with the Cannon Street team. Former team member William (Buck) Godfrey, an Atlanta Hall of Fame coach, will be present to sign his book, The Team Nobody Would Play.

“The proposed marker will commemorate the site where a group of children became the central figures in a major civil-rights activity,” said Holt. “To understand the struggle of African Americans to gain their equality in the twentieth century, you have to understand the story of the Cannon Street Y All Stars. It’s not just a Charleston story, but it has national significance as well.”

 In 1953 the Cannon Street YMCA organized a Little League baseball program, which became the only chartered African American Little League in the state of South Carolina. In 1955 the league formed an all-star team to play for advancement to the Little League World Series. All of the South Carolina white Little Leagues refused to play the Cannon Street team, squashing any chance for them to compete and move closer to playing in the Little League World Series. The Little League national office invited the Cannon Street team to travel to the World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, but the players went as observers, not participants, since they had advanced by forfeit.

Robert Morrison, president of the Cannon Street YMCA, said, “We feel our children should have the same right as any others to at least attempt to go to Williamsport. If we lose, that’s all right.” However, the players were allowed to practice on one of the fields, and the fans in the stands, impressed with the boys’ courage and skills, chanted, “Let them play! Let them play!” To no avail.

Despite their disappointments, the boys of that baseball team became strong and resilient, successful men. The marker to be revealed July 14 will recognize the site of their heroics.

Later that day, the team members will be recognized at the Charleston RiverDogs game against the Greenville Drive, at 7:05 p.m. That game will also honor former players from the Negro Leagues. The gospel group We Be Brethren will sing the National Anthem.


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