80 years later, Western MA honors legion baseball team - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

80 years later, Western MA honors legion baseball team

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HOLYOKE, MA (WSHM) -

Saturday, a Western Massachusetts man and his former American Legion baseball team were honored on the 80th anniversary of what is considered a historical moment in the history of Springfield.

"We were just kids, 14 to 16," said 96-year-old Tony King, recalling what it was like 80 years ago, when his American Legion Post 21 team took a stand against racism. 

King's squad was told they could not compete for a national championship in North Carolina with Bunny Taliaferro, an African-American, on the squad.

King was the first to say, "If Bunny doesn't play, neither do I."

"My new ordained name for Tony is he is our link to baseball heaven, to the 21 team in heaven," said Mike Borecki.

Borecki knows the Legion Post 21 story very well, and he is currently working to continue the team's legacy, which came to a halt shortly after King's team returned from North Carolina in 1934.

King said he addressed that issue 80 years ago at an African-American church in Springfield.

"I said there's a rumor going around that Post 21 was going to cancel baseball, and we hope it wasn't true because we'd like to see other young fellows derive the same benefits that we got out of legion baseball," said King.

Eight decades later, as the last living member of that legion team, King gets emotional knowing the impact they made.

"I just regret that my teammates weren't here to share in this honor," said King.

During Saturday's ceremony at the Holyoke Soldier's Home, Borecki said plans are in the works to have Post 21 back on the baseball field, even though the post itself has closed.

He said bylaws will allow for a team to be called Friends of Post 21.

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