Baseball has been around for quite a long time. But it was not until the 1920’s and 1930’s that baseball truly became America’s Pastime. Everyone was eager to play the game. Baseball was a new and exciting form of competition. But for African Americans, playing the game of baseball was not easy. Not because they were not athletes, and not because of lack of knowledge of the game. They could not play because of the color of their skin. Marion, Indiana was greatly involved in the segregation of black people. This included stores, restrooms, and playing the game of baseball. The segregation of baseball soon changed in Marion, Indiana as Marion put together the first African American baseball team. This is a large part of Marion’s history, and also for many African American families. Many last names such as McFarland, Pettiford, Jones, and Miller were involved in creating this team.(George) Two players, whom are well mentioned, are George Allen Miller and Don McFarland. These men were two of the leaders of this movement in trying to bring forth the first African American baseball team in Marion.(George)
George Allen Miller, Don McFarland, and all of their peers grew up together playing the game of baseball. It was their way of getting through many hot days and having fun. They did not know that growing up and playing together would help them in the long run. They enjoyed playing the game wherever they could; the played in sandlots, open fields, and sometimes in the street.(Lavielle) This was their only option; since they were black, they could not play on official baseball fields.(Lavielle)
Getting A Sponsor
Around the 1930’s, the group finally got the right to become an official baseball team.(George) But this was not easily won. They had to fight for the right and obtain a sponsor. The team looked to many companies and work places for support. Many work stations turned them down; all but one. Most of the men on the baseball team worked for Malleable Metal, a steel company.(Lavielle) Because of the employment of the men, Malleable Metal accepted the challenge. Malleable Metal supplied the team with all the equipment they needed; from gloves to cleats, and from bats to balls. The team also took on the name of their generous sponsor.(Goerge) After talking and negotiating with the local baseball league, team Malleable Metal was able to play.
Although the team was able to play in the league, they still were not allowed to practice on the regular fields. Being part of the league gave them the privilege to play against other teams in an organized fashion, but not the privilege to practice in the same place they played their games.(George) Because they were not able to practice on the baseball field, they had to go back to the field that they started from. Everyday, the men would meet up at the old sandlot they played on as young boys. The sandlot was located in an old field by the Marion Coliseum, beside the Mississnewa River. It was not easy. But they had no other choice. According to Lavielle Miller, practicing in such a difficult environment made the team better. The sandlot was small, but it seemed to allow the team to work more on their techniques and precision.
The Malleable Metal baseball team was very successful indeed. The late Stella Miller was known for telling many stories about the team.(Lavielle) She described them as very competitive, but also played with good consideration for others. Even though they were discriminated against, the team always played with great sportsmanship. In a sense, they did not always get the respect they had giving in return, but still played with honor and courtesy. Unfortunately, the is no information on the stats from the team, but according to Stella Miller, everyone on the team had a natural talent for the game. They were great hitters, and knew the concept of the game. It is not enough to know exactly how the team did stat wise, but it is enough to know that they were a good baseball team. Also, Malleable Metal never had a losing record, meaning they won more than half of their games every year. This team was a hard nose baseball team. In their time, they achieved a championship, as were always offered reentrance into the leauge.
After all the players retired, new players stepped in and took their places. Most of the players continued coaching Malleable Metal, and others put their gloves away for good. But George Miller and Don McFarland took a different path. Seeing how they started their own team for themselves, they started their own little league team.(Lavielle) Marion was still segregated, and it was another hard task. This team also was one of the first Negro little league teams. George used many of the same methods that he first used. Practicing in the sandlot, trying hard to become great baseball players.
The Malleable Metal Negro baseball team deserves much appreciation for the strides they took. They took what they had and what they knew, and put it all toward doing what they loved most. Being on the field, treated as equals, and playing the simple, but great game of baseball.
- Lavielle Miller. Interview. Marion, Indiana, May 2007
- Kyle Miller Sr. Interview. Marion, Indiana, May 2007
- George Miller Jr. Interview. Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2007
- Self Information. Stories from Stella Miller.
This article was written by Kyle Miller and submitted on June 5, 2007 for Mr. Munn's AP US History class at Marion High School