Sports History This Week
A Baseball Pioneer Finds His Way Behind Home Plate
February 20, 1951 (or July 1951). Emmett Ashford is waiting inside the ballpark of the Mexicali Eagles. At 36 years old, he's toiled around the United States, working toward his goal of becoming a professional umpire. Finally, he lands a tryout just south of the border to make it happen. But there's a problem: the other umpires needed to play the game are white— they won't take the field with a Black man.
Today, Emmett Ashford attempts to become the first Black umpire in organized baseball. Can he make it happen? And if so, can he overcome barriers to make it all the way to the majors?
Special thanks to our guests: Raymond Bell, the executive producer of “Called Up: The Emmett Ashford Story” and Doug Harris, the producer, director and editor of the same film; Adrienne Bratton, the daughter of Emmett Ashford; and Mark Armour, a baseball historian.