Page 34 - Salem Magazine Spring 2016
P. 34

 Our Community
    Carver Principal Chauncey Harmon
The only problem with this once in a lifetime opportunity was that LeGrande was right in the middle of his final semester of high school at Carver. The principal, Chauncey Harmon, was not only aware of LeGrande’s potential, but he also understood a young black man in 1957 may never get another chance like this one. So, he excused LeGrande from school for three weeks with the understanding that he would keep up with his class work and learn his part for the senior play.
“We killed two chickens on our farm, my mom cooked them and I carried them with me in a brown bag on that 600 mile train trip to Memphis,’ he says. “It took two days to get there.”
In Memphis, the team’s facility, Martin Stadium, had the living quarters built underneath the stands down the left field line. He was one of the youngest and smallest players in camp as 60- plus players tried to earn one of just 21 uniforms. LeGrande would make the team along with a multi-talented pitcher from Mississippi and a future country music star named Charley Pride.
Catching for Charley Pride would have been cool enough for most, but in 1959 the 19-year-old LeGrande found himself in Detroit catching for the one and only Hall of Fame Pitcher Satchell Paige.
LeGrande caught for Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige (above) and was his catcher when he retired.
LeGrande was an All-Star catcher in the Negro Leagues and earned interest from Major League franchises.
 Memphis Pitcher Charley Pride
“I was his backup catcher and he had an amazing knuckleball,” says LeGrande. “Charley was a great person
“He was a really funny man with a great sense of humor and even at that late stage of his career he could still strike out 10 batters a night,” he says.
and he beat all-world odds to accomplish what he did in country music as a black man.”
The Detroit Stars played all over America in front of huge crowds. Most came to see Paige, but that team also included two future Harlem Globetrotters, a left fielder named Sweetwater Clifton and a first baseman by the name of “Goose” Tatum. They had lots of star power, but never a great deal of cash.
SPRING 2016 |
“In the Negro Leagues, we had loaves of bread, bologna and cheese, we handled our own luggage and sleeping on the bus was our motel,” he says. “I remember we did stay in a hotel one night in Missouri and it was so bad the bed had four cinderblocks holding up the mattress and three of us had to sleep in it.”
 LeGrande played in two Negro League All-Star games in 1958 and 1959 representing the Detroit Stars and Kansas City Monarchs, respectively. His play in those contests attracted Major League interest and offers from the Milwaukee Braves, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees. During a game that same season at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., his team owner, Ted Rasberry, told his young catcher to follow him upstairs to the executive offices.
“I remember that office had carpet on the walls and I had never seen anything like that,” he says. “When they told me the Yankees wanted to sign me, my hair stood straight up.”
When he signed with the New York Yankees in 1959, he was flown from Roanoke to Tampa for their winter league workouts where he was in camp with the likes of Billy Martin, Joe Pepitone and Clete Boyer.
“Here I am the only black man in this camp wearing pinstripes and I knew I had to shine,” he says. “I was thinking about Coach Cannaday and how proud he would be of me, and all I wanted to do was impress them.”

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