|Updated: 6/11/2012 9:57 am
||Published: 6/08/2012 10:07 pm
"America's Favorite Pastime" has a past. Before 1947, when Jackie Robinson became the first African-Americans to pay in Major League Baseball, blacks were forced to play in a league of their own: The Negro Baseball League.
Friday night Tulsa Drillers honored one of the original players from that league at OneOk Field before their game.
For Roosevelt Jackson, this field isn't what it used to be.
"It just never came into my mind that we would ever be able to play together," said Jackson.
He is the oldest living Negro League Baseball player. The 94-year-old played center field for numerous teams like the Fort Lauderdale Braves.
He played in the south during the late 1930's where segregation made traveling hard.
"First thing I'd ask is about the restroom but if they didn't have a restroom for me, I would just get in my car and go somewhere else, said Jackson. "I never tried to fight against things like that.”
He just wanted to play ball despite making less than $100 a game.
"There wasn't no money made, but I got a great pleasure playing baseball," said the Negro League Hall of Famer.
He felt that same excitement as he walked out of the Drillers tunnel and onto the field.
"It's been a long time since I been on a pitching mound," he said.
But Jackson stepped up to throw the first pitch for the Tulsa Drillers still showing off his moves as the home team crowd honored him.
"It just brings me joy to get to know people are finally recognizing the Negro League players that have been forgotten for so long," said Larry Smith, the first white baseball player in the Negro Baseball League.
Now Jackson is getting that recognition and he says, for him its home run.
"It might take months, it might takes years before I could put that into words what this meant to me,” he said.
Jackson was honored by both the state of Georgia and the U.S. 2 years ago, right around the same time the U.S. post office released post stamps commemorating the Negro league.
Eugene Golden, another Negro League Player, was also honored at the Drillers game Friday.
The team also saw its largest number of fans at OneOk Field. There were more than 8,700 people who showed up.
Sylvester Nichols played for the T-town Clowns of The Negro Baseball League and at 89 years old he's the oldest former player living in Tulsa.