Today I had the privilege of speaking to James Robinson, an ex-Negro Leaguer who played a few games for Oscar Charleston’s Philadelphia Stars in late 1952.
Mr. Robinson was playing for North Carolina A&T University in 1952 when Charleston, in town with the Stars, stopped by to do some scouting. “After that particular game he approached me and said ‘Look, when the season is over I’d like you to join the Philadelphia Stars.” Robinson agreed. A week later, though, Robinson broke his wrist and sent Charleston a letter saying he wouldn’t be able to join the team right away.
“So late that season — maybe late August, the last Sunday in August — the Stars came to New York to play in Yankee Stadium. I caught up with them there.” There were only a few games left in the season, but Charleston took him on and, in his first game, turned to him and said, “‘Robinson, go into left field.’ So my first Negro League game was in Yankee Stadium.”
Robinson later played with the Indianapolis Clowns and, after a stint in the Army, latched on with the Kansas City Monarchs for three full seasons in 1956-58, playing third base, second base, and shortstop for managers jelly Taylor and Dizzy Dismukes. In retirement, he became the head coach at South Carolina State University.
Mr. Robinson turns 86 next month. He didn’t know Charleston well, but he is a great source for information about Negro League baseball in its later days. It was a great honor to speak with him.