In 1950 Ray Brown, in search of a baseball team which would not discriminate against blacks, found one in the Sherbrooke Athlétiques, a provincial minor team which already had an impressive lineup of outstanding players. There was Silvio Garcia from Cuba , Claro Duany, who in 1997 was inducted in the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame and their manager, Roland Gladu, who had played in the US major leagues.
Because of restrictions about blacks playing in the major leagues they were picked up by the minor leagues. These great baseball players came to Quebec and in particular Sherbrooke where they found no discriminatory restrictions. And for this Sherbrooke was rewarded. It got a team worthy of major league talent. And thus baseball became the game that everyone talked about. The stadium on Park Avenue was always packed and you could hear the roar of cheer for miles away.
My father would tell stories about how the black baseball players would come to his restaurant and he would talk to them about the game and cars. But it was Ray Brown, once pitcher for the Pittsburg Homestead Greys, a professional team that played in the Negro leagues in the United States, that my father most often spoke of.
I was only an infant when Ray Brown came to Sherbrooke to pitch for the Athlétiques but the story of how he brought the team to a championship in 1951 were legendary in my father’s memory. Years later, after the Sherbrooke stadium had burnt down and Brown had gone to play for a senior team in Thetford Mines, Quebec, there was still the spirit of championship that lingered in the fields of little leaguers.
When in February, 1965 Ray Brown died my father grieved over him as if he were his brother. It comforted me to know that my father could have such feelings for a black man for I knew that his prejudices were but a façade that could easily crumble.
I regret that my father didn’t live to see Ray Brown being inducted in the Baseball National Hall of Fame in 2006. He would have been proud and I would have heard all over again how the black baseball players would come to his restaurant and he would joke with them. Then he’d come home and talk about them and I would hear the wonderful sound of admiration in his voice.