King’s 4th grade students were blessed with a special visit this week from Mr. Lyle Wilson, estate lawyer by trade, African American Historian by hobby. Mr. Wilson has contributed to numerous publications and exhibitions about African American Baseball history and has published a book on local African American Baseball teams, “Sunday Afternoons at Garfield Park.” He is also the proud father of two King’s alumni and grandfather to two current King’s students!
Our 4th grade students have been studying important figures in African American Civil Rights history, and Mr. Wilson expanded their learning by bringing his decades of knowledge. Students learned how segregation affected people of color in baseball and how, despite their mistreatment, their love of baseball led to the creation of their own baseball leagues!
To bring history to life, Mr. Wilson brought part of his African American baseball memorabilia collection to King’s Elementary, which included books, baseball cards, bats, replica jerseys and signed baseballs related to African American Baseball teams from here in the Pacific Northwest and across the country.
Along with the memorabilia, Mr. Wilson shared light-hearted stories highlighting the athleticism and wit of players like Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, and Josh Gibson. He also told the unfortunate stories about the treatment of the players, like when teams were allowed to play in their towns, but not stay in their town’s hotels. In addition, he busted the myth that Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball – it was actually Moses Fleetwood Walker who played for the Toledo Blue Stockings, which became a Major league team in 1884.
Finally, Mr. Wilson shared the well-known events about how Branch Ricky, President and General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Jackie Robinson in 1945, breaking the unwritten rule about color lines and changing Major League Baseball history!
We’d like to extend a big thank you to Mr. Wilson for sharing his time and wealth of knowledge with us!