Dickey: How Charley Pride went from Negro League ballplayer to country music’s Jackie Robinson

From Jack Dickey at Sports Illustrated on March 21, 2018:

Baseball and country music, America’s most celebrated forms of popular art, have much in common: They are best enjoyed on the radio, in the summer, with the windows down; they are homespun and freewheeling in theory but held rigid in reality by unwritten codes; their most gifted practitioners come up from obscurity and poverty to reach fame and fortune … but not without first paying their dues in a series of seedy honky-tonks or crumbling minor-league parks, many of them located in the very same crumbling American towns. 

At Texas Rangers camp in Surprise, Ariz., on a bright day early last March, there are more aspiring baseball players than any team could ever need. Some of them probably stand a better chance at singing country songs than ever playing in Arlington.

If they need confirmation of that, they can ask Charley Pride, who is at camp almost every morning. Everyone here knows him. He’s a Mississippi-born pitcher and outfielder, a switch-hitter, sturdy and in good shape but a little past his physical prime. Don’t blame him; he’s doing the best he can. This spring he turned 84.

Pride has owned a small stake in the Rangers since 2010, but he started training with them long before that, ever since they turned up in Texas in 1972 with Ted Williams as manager. Pride will tell anyone who’ll listen that he got a hit off of Jim Palmer one spring in the ’70s. He has his own locker in the coaches’ room, a team-issued- uniform (number 05, which he’s worn since turning 50) and cleats.

Read the full article here: https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/03/21/charley-pride-texas-rangers-country-music

Originally published: March 21, 2018. Last Updated: March 21, 2018.