The year of 2017 will mark the 65th anniversary of Reverend William "Bill" Greason's breaking of Oklahoma's professional sports color barrier. As a fan and friend of this human treasure, I have respectfully requested celebratory consideration for his nomination and induction into Oklahoma's Sports Hall Of Fame for this upcoming anniversary year of 2017.
Within this personal letter, Mr. Rickey discerningly writes:
That Bill Greason was at the forefront of such a significant movement in Oklahoma speaks volumes. What travails he assuredly underwent as he endeavored to succeed on the field while also endeavoring to succeed as a citizen in our society is something he and others, all by their examples, have help us rid from legal and public sanction today. The extension of civil rights was given profound legitimacy through his success and by what, his resulting reputation demonstrates, was his corresponding off-field leadership role in his community, especially for upcoming youth for whom he was a model.
How could our debt of gratitude to him be better addressed and more justifiably highlighted than by recognizing Mr. Greason in your sports pantheon," concludes Branch Rickey, III.
Those unfamiliar with baseball history or have yet to see Harrison Ford masterly play the role of the original Branch Rickey in the movie "42" will more than likely not know Branch Rickey, III is "the" grandson of that original version. It was the historical and notorious Branch Rickey who culminated his strategic plan for Major League Baseball (MLB) integration when the legendary Jackie Robinson entered the field of play for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
Although certainly not on the same level and fields of baseball play, echoes of Reverend Greason's comparability to the civil rights impact of the great Jackie Robinson have resonated within local, state and national medias. The Daily Oklahoman's Berry Tramel, Oklahoma City publisher and civic leader Russell Perry and Turner Network Television's Ernie Johnson have referenced Bill Greason as being "the Jackie Robinson of Oklahoma."
We strongly believe that it is fitting that over 60 years after this momentous event, the Reverend be recognized both for it and for the exemplary life he has led serving our country in World War II and serving within his community as a pastor. The Reverend has been a trailblazing athlete and his time in Oklahoma City would be appropriately recognized by the honor of admission to the Sports Hall of Fame."
Officially signed on July, 28, 1952, by Oklahoma City's Texas League baseball club, William "Bill" Greason became the first black athlete to integrate and compete at the professional level for an Oklahoma sports team. Three days later, on July 31, 1952, Greason was victorious in his exciting debut appearance on the mound against the Shreveport Sports. Starting in ten late season games for the Oklahoma City, Greason compiled a 9-1 record with a team leading 2.14 earned run average (E.R.A.) and a team leading .900 won-loss percentage.
Former Daily Oklahoman columnist of the time, the late John Cronley, wrote "With speedy Bill Greason making an auspicious debut as the first Negro ever to wear an Oklahoma City uniform, the Warriors posted their second victory in a row over Shreveport here Thursday night."
Distinguished Los Angeles publicist Stan Rosenfield, a young witnessing fan of the time, proclaims "Bill Greason ignited our city and the crowds were huge every time he pitched!"
Prominent Oklahoma City attorney Kent Meyers, a 1952 batboy for the Indians, shared "He handled the situation with dignity, grace and class."
Veteran Daily Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson writes "Greason was a brave pioneer in the largely uncharted territory of integration."
Renowned Oklahoma City publisher and civic leader Russell Perry, a young fan of the time, shared "Jubilation as it was like Jackie Robinson was here!"
Acclaimed Daily Oklahoman columnist and baseball historian Berry Tramel recognizes Greason as "Oklahoma City's Jackie Robinson."
Greason not only ignited fan excitement and drove attendance levels to new heights, but he delivered big with those nine wins in 1952 for Oklahoma City's baseball club. Greason delivered another sixteen victories the following season before being acquired by St. Louis of the National League and becoming the first African-American pitcher for the Cardinals in 1954.
Born in Altanta, Georgia in 1924, William "Bill" Greason began his professional baseball career with the Nashville Black Vols of the Negro American League in 1947. He joined the Birmingham Black Barons the following year and, as a pitcher, won the only game for the 1948 Black Barons against the mighty Homestead Grays in what would become the last Negro League World Series.
Previous to his professional baseball career, Private First Class William "Bill" Greason, with the 4th Division's 34th Supply Depot, served our country as a United States Marine. A Marine that saluted the American flag from a blood stained beach on the island of Iwo Jima as it was raised in victory atop Mount Suribachi in 1945. Private Greason also served during the Korean conflict and has been awarded a United States Congressional Gold Medal of Honor for his barrier breaking military service with the Montford Point Marines.
On behalf of what I consider a human treasure, a much overlooked and mostly forgotten constituent of Oklahoma's original civil rights and sports history, I, Mark House, respectfully nominate Reverend William "Bill" Greason for Oklahoma Sports Hall Of Fame induction consideration in the upcoming year of 2017.
Information for this blogUmentary was researched and composed with confidence of accuracy. It is the hope of this author that the historical magnitude of Reverend William "Bill" Greason's pioneering civil rights impact integrated with his victorious contribution on Oklahoma's professional field of play would merit a well deserved, honorable and commemorative placement in the Oklahoma Sports Hall Of Fame.
Special thanks to Mr. Branch Rickey, III, President, Pacific Coast Baseball League, for his personal Hall Of Fame endorsement of Reverend Greason relative to a nomination and induction into Oklahoma's Sports Hall Of Fame.
Special thanks to Mr. Larry Freedman, CEO/Owner, Oklahoma City Dodgers, for his personal Hall Of Fame endorsement and offer of sponsor support relative to the nomination and induction of Reverend Greason.
Special thanks to the "Say Hey Kid," Willie Mays, for his personal Hall Of Fame endorsement of Reverend Greason, his lifetime friend and former Birmingham Black Baron teammate.
Special thanks to Mr. Ernie Johnson, Sportscaster and TV Host, Turner Network Television, for his personal interest and televised endorsement encouraging the consideration of Reverend Greason for induction into Oklahoma's Sports Hall Of Fame.
Special thanks to my friend Mr. Stan Rosenfield, Stan Rosenfield & Associates, Los Angeles, for taking extraordinary interest in this Hall Of Fame nomination and induction effort and for networking some most valuable access to some amazing people who make exceptional things happen.
Special thanks to Mr. Peter Guber, Chairman/CEO, Mandalay Entertainment Group, for his personal interest in the Hall Of Fame nomination and induction effort of Reverend William "Bill" Greason.