A Funny Vic Power Story that Says a Lot About How Far We’ve Come

Posted: February 18, 2022 by datechguy in baseball, culture
Tags: , , ,

My wife bought me both Bill James Historical Abstracts for Christmas the 1985 and the 2003 edition. The newer one had a story about Vic Power the premiere defensive first baseman of the late 50’s and early 60’s that made me laugh out loud and when I repeated it told a story about how far we’ve come on race in the US.

Power was a very dark skinned Puerto Rican player who came up in the early 50’s just as the integration of baseball was taking place. He as I noted (and as his stats at baseball reference.com can tell you) was a spectacular fielding first baseman winning gold gloves every year from 1958-1964 a six time all star in four years (some years two AS games were played) who could hit a bit often in the top ten of hitting categories and leading the league in triples once.

He was also rather outspoken and outgoing and was considered by racists of the time “an uppity nigger” (FYI Bill James notes this reference without spelling the actual word saying “uppity n-word”. I don’t believe in this N-word bullshit. I prefer to quote the actual offensive words being used, even that most offensive of words: “Semprini” , because it’s proper for us to see things as they actually were. If you are offended by their use at that time, good you should be. If you are offended by me quoting said offensive language to illustrate it, may I suggest there are plenty of other blogs out there for the weak of heart to read, but I digress…) but Power didn’t care not let such people stop him. A great illustration of this came in a story that James told of him.

He stopped by a restaurant in Syracuse to eat and the waiter walked up to him nervously saying to him: “I’m sorry sir we don’t serve colored people in this restaurant.” Power didn’t miss a beat in his reply: “That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people.”

James doesn’t relate what happened next but I laughed so loud & hard when I read it that all the people in the lunch room turned to stare, but the most interesting thing came when I was heading back from break toward my work station.

I passed by the guards station and the guard on duty was a thirty year old fellow who I knew to be a baseball fan. I told him the story and he smiled at the punch line but it was his reaction to the words of the waiter that struck me.

It was utter amazement. I’m almost sixty and while not old enough to remember ever hearing that in person I’m old enough for such a thing to be not unfamiliar to me, but to him the very idea that a person might choose to deny service to a person because of their race was so foreign and unthinkable to him that he just couldn’t process it.

I can think of no more concrete sign that we have really moved forward on race than that.

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