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Glenn fondly recalls time in Negro, Minor Leagues
02/22/2007 10:00 AM ET
The stars of the Negro Leagues always garnered attention, whether they made the leap to the Major Leagues post-Jackie Robinson or when they were barnstorming across the country in the '30s or '40s. Baseball fans have heard all the stories about players like Buck O'Neil and Josh Gibson and rightfully have placed them alongside those of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Roy Campanella.

But there are thousands of stories that aren't told as frequently and aren't spun with such reverence. The story of Stanley Glenn's career is one that wouldn't make most documentaries about the integration of baseball. Yet it's probably more indicative of what the average Negro League player experienced as he moved from the world of segregated ball into the affiliated Minor League system.

Glenn, a sound defensive catcher in the 1940s and '50s, doesn't tell a tale rife with racism, as some do. He, like every player of color in those days, experienced hatred and bigotry, some subtle, some overt. But his story is more about anonymity and how one player made the leap to integrated ball only to fall far short of the rewards that were reaped by the stars of the day.

The Virginia native had a career that spanned nearly two decades, affording him the opportunity to play in North and South America as well as the Caribbean. Glenn played for the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro Leagues from 1944 through July 1950, when the Braves signed him to a Minor League deal.

Glenn, now 80, played for Hartford in the Class A Eastern League, Lincoln of the Class A Western League and Quebec of the Class C Provincial League before heading to Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela to ply his trade. He brushed greatness a few times, catching Satchel Paige back in the '40s and later handling future Major Leaguer Gene Conley in Hartford.

But for the most part, Glenn's career was not unlike that of any of today's players who spend several years in the Minor Leagues before retiring to pursue other interests. It was people like Glenn, though, who proved to be the backbone of the Negro Leagues and helped pave the way for future generations of African-American stars.

"There are positive stories and negative stories and a lot of things in between that people don't want to tell," Glenn said. "We were not a very decent country at the time when it came down to black folks. Even in the Negro Leagues, we had trouble finding places to eat, hotels that would take you in, and traveling was awful. I get no joy out of remembering it.

"But Hartford was my first stop and they were used to black people, so we didn't have any problems there. We had a good club there even though some of the guys were from the South. They never seemed to get in my way and we were as close as we could possibly be at the time. I couldn't say I had a tough time. You always hear the rhetoric, but you don't let it bother you. I had a pretty decent career and played almost 20 years."

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Glenn began his career as a teenager with the Philly Stars, playing at Shibe Park on Mondays while the A's and Phillies were traveling. Both Philadelphia teams in the Major Leagues were struggling to draw fans, but the Stars regularly attracted more than 30,000 fans and, according to Glenn, were quite popular.

He made his way through the circuit, playing with and against Paige, Mays and Aaron before the Braves came calling. Honey Russell, the legendary basketball coach at Seton Hall, also was a scout for Boston and recommended the Braves sign Glenn. They took his advice and brought him in during the summer of 1950.

While Glenn was a strong defensive catcher, he never got a shot at making it with either the Boston or Milwaukee Braves. The club had two All-Star catchers -- Del Crandall and Walker Cooper -- during Glenn's run with the organization and their presence kept Glenn in the Minors.

"They're the only reason I didn't make it to the Major Leagues, but I had a good time," Glenn said. "Every year was a fine year for me because I was a defensive catcher. I hit 192 home runs in my whole career, so every now and then I'd hit one out of there. But I loved to catch.

"To get a pitcher through a whole ballgame with as little trouble as possible was a great day for me. I enjoyed that. There aren't many good catchers in the Major Leagues today. When I was coming along, there were a lot of real good catchers. In the Negro Leagues, Campanella wasn't even the best catcher, but he did everything in the National League."

Conley was one of the pitchers with whom Glenn worked. He won 20 games for Hartford in 1951 and went on to win 91 games during an 11-year career. Conley also gained notoriety because he played for the NBA's Celtics over the winter and is the only person ever to win a World Series and an NBA Championship.

Glenn believes he was in no small way an integral part of Conley's success. Conley tends to agree, to some extent.

"I didn't know much about pitching to spots and changing speeds," Conley said. "But he would tell me just pitch to his glove. High school pitchers don't pitch to gloves. They just take their stuff and let it go. And that's what I did in high school and even college. I always remember he caught me.

"My last game there they had a Gene Conley Night in Hartford. We were playing Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and we had a nice crowd. It was a 0-0 game and they stopped it in the middle to have this celebration for me at home plate. So we get back to the game and, sure enough, the next inning we score two runs and I shut them out for my 20th win. Stanley came out and leapt on top of me and says, 'You remind me of old Satch. I love you like a brother.' I felt awful honored."

Glenn also attended the Philadelphia School of Medicine during his career to become a physical therapist. He never became one, though he did earn the nickname "Doc," a moniker to which he still answers. Upon his retirement, he became a salesman for a wholesale electrical contractor.

Glenn remains active in The Negro Leagues Players Association and has also written a book entitled, "Don't Let Anyone Take Your Joy Away: An Inside Look at Negro League Baseball and Its Legacy." Glenn was honored in 1994 at the White House with several other Negro Leagues veterans and remains active on the banquet circuit.

While he never achieved fame or fortune in baseball, his work, and that of others like him, can't be overlooked.

"I don't think I got a fair shake," Glenn said. "In the beginning, Jackie Robinson went in and in two months he changed the way the whole National League played. Had it not been for Branch Rickey it probably would have taken another 10 years.

"The Minor Leagues were what I expected, though. I was one of those people who didn't care. I was a baseball nut and still am at 80 years old. I know of nothing I would have done differently. I never made much money, but I had an awful lot of fun."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.