Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva's Black History


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Interview with Jennings Leroy Muir, 14 July 2004

Audio Recording

About This Recording

Mr. Jennings Muir is the curator of the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame in Salisbury, MD. In the interview, he talks about the Eastern Shore minor leagues in the early 1900's, and the influence of African Americans in Major League baseball.

This interview is part of the Teaching American History Program. For more information, see the Edward H. Nabb Center Finding Aid.


Interviewer: Mike Golnick

Narrator Jennings Leroy Muir

Date: July 14th, 2004

[First recording begins]

Michael Golnick: I'm interviewing Mr. Leroy Muir, curator of the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum at Purdue Stadium and we're going to talk about Mr. Muir and baseball on the Eastern Shore. Mr. Muir, a little bit on your background, please, sir.

J. Leroy Muir: Okay. I was born in Somerset County in a small village named Dame's Quarter on January 8th, 1933, which makes me 71 years old. My parents were Jennings S. and Madeleine F. Muir. My sister was named Jane Elizabeth Muir. I completed grades 1 through 12 and I completed several college courses while in the Navy for 20 years. I have three children by my first wife, Josephine, who I lost to cancer in 1986. I have a son named Steven, he's 47; Julie, she's 46; Jane's 43. My second wife Kathleen had four children and we were married in March 1990. Her children's names are Sheryl, Michael, Dawn and Kimberly.

Michael Golnick: When you were in the Navy, excuse me to interrupt, did you fight in WW2?

J. Leroy Muir: No, I wasn't in World War II. I went in during the Korean conflict, but I was in Vietnam twice, so.

Michael Golnick: Twice?

J. Leroy Muir: Twice, yeah I was with a CB battalion, construction battalion.

Michael Golnick: Okay. I know a little bit about that, though. I guess, you know, you would almost assume a lot of people, Mr. Miles was also in the military where he saw some time in Korea. Okay, sorry, to interrupt you.

J. Leroy Muir: All right. Anyhow, to get back to family life, between my wife and, we have seven children and ten grandchildren. I worked in construction prior to joining the Navy in 1953 and spent 20 years in the military, retiring in 1973. Worked in construction outdoors for several years and later worked as a salesman for a company in Annapolis, Maryland. [pauses to cough] I lived in Arnold, Maryland after retirement and moved to Salisbury in 1989. I became a member of the Eastern Shore Baseball Foundation in 1994 and served on the Board of Directors and also Secretary Treasurer for several years, continued as a member of the Board of Directors until assuming position of Curator of Museum in 2004. This has been a rewarding experience as I have a labor of love for baseball and am a people person. My parents moved to Georgetown, Delaware in 1938. [coughs] I was five and started first grade that year. I had a neighbor friend named Carter Lecates(?) and we were always having a catch with a baseball. Later, we would play sandlot, shoot marbles and play soccer in grade school. All the time during our young teen years, we were honing our skills playing baseball. On reaching high school, our thoughts turned to someday playing on the high school team. I was a left-handed pitcher with a natural curve and good control. So, I played my 10th, 11th and 12th year on the varsity team.

Michael Golnick: What was the school?

J. Leroy Muir: Georgetown High School, Delaware. I was a left handed pitcher with a natural curve and good control. I usually had a 500 percentage win and loss record, and our team would win their share of games each year. After graduating in 1950 at age 17, I played ball for the American Legion Post 22, some of our games were played on the old Rehoboth Beach Diamond, where the Rehoboth Beach Pirates played in the Eastern Shore League in 1946, '47, '48 and '49. This was a special treat as my Uncle Joe Muir and pitched for Rehoboth in 1947. The Bi-County League was formed and I played for Millsboro in 1950 and 1951. I was scouted by Pittsburgh Pirates Scout Polk Wheeling(?) In early 1951 and was invited to the Pirates training camp in DeLand Florida. After spending two weeks there, I was released and came home to finish with Millsboro and the Bi-County League and we won the championship. I was invited to play on the All-Star team along with my teammates, Steven Mitchell(?) and Bobby Fisher(?). We played Pocomoke in the Eastern Shore League in a night game. In 1952, I tried out for a Class D team and was sent to Lexington, North Carolina for spring training. This was in the North Carolina League, Class D, I signed to play for $450 per month, which wasn't bad for that year. We played all night games and rode an old bus, stayed at the new hotel in Lexington and ate at a boarding house. I didn't have a winning record and was released in July. It was a great experience, and I will always look back on it as something special happening in my life. I returned to Delaware and played with Millsboro in the Central Shore League as a first baseman, where I batted 267. Millsboro won the championship that year against Sharptown. I dare say that there must have been 2000 fans at that game. We had many great players on the team, such as Bob Brody, Hart Mitchell, Leroy Jones, Shea Dunaway, Bobby Knight, Graham Dill, Bobby Fisher, Freddie Atkins, Jesse Millman, Jim Reed and Bill Spencer [all names are phonetically spelled pending verification]. Many of these players played for other teams until the Central Shore League folded in 1959. I went into the military in 1953. Want me to continue?

Michael Golnick: Yes.

J. Leroy Muir: I have many memorable moments to look back on. During a high school game against Milton, Delaware, I picked a player off first base who thought he was hot stuff. In 1951, pitching against Snow Hill, I struck out 16 batters and that was a special day. I remember playing Crisfield one very hot day, on their home field. They were very poor losers, and we beat them 2 to 1. While pitching in a game in the North Carolina State League one night, a left-handed batter hit a homerun off of me, and it landed on top of the fence and bounced over, my luck. While playing service ball in California, I pitched a 14-inning game, and we lost in the 14th. Another time, while playing in Barstow, California, one hot and humid afternoon, I hit a towering ball to right field and thought it would be caught by the right fielder. But it kept rising until it went over the fence for a home run. Another time, while playing for the Seabee team in Davisville, Rhode Island, my catcher was a big man called Big Dan. 6'4, 220 pounds. He would throw the ball back to me, harder to me than I could pitch to him. Having seen many baseball games as a young teenager at Old Shibe Park in Philadelphia, with the As and Phillies. I can remember players like Bobby Shantz, Rudy York, Robin Roberts, Stan Musial. Other ones were Allie Reynolds, Walt Dropo, Leo Durocher, Frank Malzone, Cal Ripken Jr, Brook Robinson, Jim Palmer, Pete Rose, and the list goes on and on. So many great Major League players.

Michael Golnick: Did you ever see the movie Bull Durham?

J. Leroy Muir: Yes, I did.

Michael Golnick: Did that catcher remind you of the guy that caught you? You know, because Kevin Cosner [both talking]

J. Leroy Muir: Yeah, that's right. He would burn me up, I mean, my—the palm of my hand would actually be red when we got through the game.

Michael Golnick: So, do you say, do you watch baseball movies?

J. Leroy Muir: Oh, yeah.

Michael Golnick: A little off-topic, but you know.

J. Leroy Muir: Yeah. Yeah. In fact, my Uncle Joe, who pitched for the Rehoboth Pirates and later for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was a player in the movie many, many years ago called Angels in the Outfield that took place in California when he was out there playing for Indianapolis in the Pacific Coast League, and they were playing California, so they used some of the players to fill in.

Michael Golnick: I think they did part of that movie Major League; I think they filmed some of that in Camden Yards a couple of times, have people there so that they had the background.

J. Leroy Muir: I think you're right, and then, how about the one that was, a guy was managing a girls' team?

Michael Golnick: A League of their Own.

J. Leroy Muir: A League of their own. I just thought that that was really great.

Michael Golnick: I didn't know very much about women's baseball, I guess, because they didn't have anything around here about that, did they?

J. Leroy Muir: No, but they had some exhibition games here where they would come in and play different teams. And, and they were very good here years ago, at the center. They had a complete display of all of the Major League women's uniforms, bats, balls, pictures and that sort of thing, it was really great. But they were good.

Michael Golnick: Yeah. Oh yeah. Well, you know, you see some of them, I played with a girl in elementary school, and we used to call her Killer, because she could kill the ball, and she'd kill us too. And she was, she played like a boy, and if you watch some of the girls’ basketball teams, they the girls are real good. They play with their brothers or the guys on the court.

J. Leroy Muir: It's true, some of them have just got natural ability, and then you know they're going to be an athlete.

Michael Golnick: My dad's from the Midwest, and he, his sisters were good baseball players because that's what the kids did out there, they played baseball. How about a little bit on the old Eastern Shore League?

J. Leroy Muir: Alright.

Michael Golnick: I know there were three, three phases

J. Leroy Muir: Three phases of the Eastern Shore League. The first Eastern Shore League can be deemed a total success, with each team posting an $875 entrance fee and to either build a new park or renovate the existing one, which was one of the things that they had to do in order to get into the league. The six teams chosen to begin a new class D leagues were Cambridge, Crisfield, Pocomoke City, Salisbury, Laurel, Delaware, and Parksley, Virginia. Parksley happened to win the very first championship in 1922, and then they won two more after that in '29 and maybe '31 or something like that, but they won three championships, which for a small town that's pretty good, certainly is. And of course, this season lasted until 1927 and then in 1928 is when they actually folded.

Michael Golnick: Did they fold, lack of money, was it the depression, or?

J. Leroy Muir: Several reasons: finance, financially was the big reason, because they had set an amount forward to pay the players. And of course, a lot of times they couldn't come up with this amount. Attendance started to dwindle, and so, you know, they decided to fold.

Michael Golnick: And part of that, they weren't subsidized, or had, like we were talking originally, working contracts from the Major League. They might buy some players that were active, but say like today, the Shorebirds are part of the Orioles team, so there's money from there.

J. Leroy Muir: And the support. They didn't have the support back then like they do today from the Major Leagues, that's true. Salisbury and Cambridge would be the only two team to survive the three distinct phases of the Eastern Shore League over a span of 28 years, and the only two teams, and the reason why—they had their ups and downs—was the possibility of having to fold at times but it came became evident that the downs were overcoming the ups. On July 11th, 1928, at the Wicomico Hotel in Salisbury the League directors assembled and voted by a margin of 4 to 2 to disband the Eastern Shore League. Its demise was attributed to each club running heavily behind financially with no prospects of any better attendance.

Michael Golnick: Of course, the depression sorta was beginning to set in, it set in in certain areas. So, do you think maybe the depression maybe started in the smaller areas and then blew up in the, in '29?

J. Leroy Muir: I think that's evident. When, let's face it, what's baseball revolve around today? Money. You gotta have money to operate, and during the Depression, it was a lot of money.

Michael Golnick: Well, I don't mean to jump ahead of you, but I noticed the next one is 1937, and President Roosevelt put out a number of programs in his New Deal to help local communities and I thought, maybe some of that New Deal money all the sudden filtered into athletics? Or say, like, baseball in this area.

J. Leroy Muir: I'm not sure about that.

Michael Golnick: You know, when we look at Salisbury, there is, there is some things that we talked about in our class, in showing money being put into the local areas, with murals and things of that sort, so I was wondering if baseball got a little money in the area.

J. Leroy Muir: A lot of the people, of businessmen and things, what happened was—there was one guy who in partially, who even sold some of his personal possessions in order to keep the team going. Okay, and this is what a lot of the businessmen would do, is they would provide money to keep the team running because of the financial situation, which I can understand why. They didn't want to see baseball go by the wayside.

Michael Golnick: And baseball, would you say, was probably the primary sport in the area?

J. Leroy Muir: At that time? That's true.

Michael Golnick: You know, when you get a little bit farther along in our journey, the other sports kind of play in, but it seemed like everybody was (all over?) baseball.

J. Leroy Muir: I tell people when we were growing up, there was three things you do on Sunday. You could go to the beach with your girl, you could go fishing, or you could play baseball. And most of the guys chose baseball.

Michael Golnick: Now, today we got whip out the video games.

J. Leroy Muir: So, do you want to talk a little bit about the span between '28 and '37?

Michael Golnick: Yeah, just a little bit, you know, because that's sort of a down period, but we also know that's the period of the Depression.

J. Leroy Muir: Well, the teams that played on the Shore had some real great players, had much talent was here, and a lot of them became major leaguers later on. But one of the things that people happen to forget here is the reason why that baseball was revived was because of the famous Cambridge Phillips Delicious and the Coca-Cola City Championship series of 1936.

Michael Golnick: Those are local teams.

J. Leroy Muir: It's that, two local teams, and they had nine professional players who were involved in the local city championship. The attendance at these games sparked the need and interest to revive the second phase of the Eastern Shore League play, 1937. Some of the names responsible for the revitalization were Tom Kibler, who served as president and later on in other phases. Joe Carr, Art Ehlers, who was from the Pocomoke City area, he was in World War I and his career was cut short as a pitcher because he got machine gunned in his pitching arm during World War I, but he was one of the ones that sold his personal possessions to keep the team going, Art Ehlers. And of course, a lot of these names are John Dutch Brennan(?), Kerry Russell(?), and all of these men came together. We have one man in Salisbury here by the name of Mr. L.W. Gumbi, who was a prominent businessman here in Salisbury who also had interest in keeping the Eastern Shore League going. We have a couple of photos here of where he invited Kenesaw Landis to throw out a ball at Gordy Park one day.

Michael Golnick: There is a picture somebody gave me that shows Landis throwing his own baseball out here.

J. Leroy Muir: That was quite a day.

Michael Golnick: Yeah.

J. Leroy Muir: His fans were packed.

Michael Golnick: I noticed everybody was in a coat and tie.

J. Leroy Muir: Well, I tell people, they just got—they just came from church.

Michael Golnick: Yeah.

J. Leroy Muir: Okay. What else would you like to cover here?

Michael Golnick: How about the next creation of the '37-'41 league then, and I guess at this time, I also noticed on the walls that there was some African American teams, but there was no integration with these teams at this time. How about the '37-'41 league?

J. Leroy Muir: One of the things I like to point out in regards to '37, probably the most memorable event to happen here in Salisbury during their time in the Eastern Shore League.

[phone rings, background shuffling, audio cuts and restarts]

J. Leroy Muir: All right. Probably the most memorable moment for looking back at the 1937 team was, they started game—the season off, and had to forfeit 21 games because of an ineligible player.

Ineligible for what reason?

For he should have not been playing in that league, he should have been with another higher league. In other words, they had they had taken him and brought him in from some other league and shouldn't have brought him in.

Michael Golnick: So, they had certain requirements.

J. Leroy Muir: And certain rules to go by. And a man by the name of Tom Kibler who said that this, you know, wasn't right. So, he made them forfeit the 21 games.

Michael Golnick: How many of the games did they actually won out of 21?

J. Leroy Muir: You mean if they hadn't—

Michael Golnick: Yeah, if they hadn't had to forfeit them.

J. Leroy Muir: Well, evidently, they would have won the biggest part of them because they ended up winning the championship, you know. They won 48 of their last 58 games.

Michael Golnick: So, they have a pretty good start, but then they overcame that adversity and that's, that's pretty, pretty devastating, losing 21 games then coming back, what'd you say? 48 out of 58?

J. Leroy Muir: Yup.

Michael Golnick: To me that is about as close to 800 percentage.

J. Leroy Muir: That's why they won the championship. But it—Cooperstown rates the greatest feats in baseball, and they have 100 of them. And this feat that Salisbury pulled off in '37 is rated number 8 out of 100. Jake Flowers, a manager, was of Cambridge. He got the Manager of the Year from Sporting News. And later he played Major League baseball and managed, and he's inducted in this hall of fame too, of course.

Michael Golnick: Did you get a chance to see any of those gentlemen play?

J. Leroy Muir: No, I didn't get to see Jake Flowers, no.

Michael Golnick: How about the '37 team?

J. Leroy Muir: No, no, I was only four years old.

Michael Golnick: Okay, alright, hold on.

J. Leroy Muir: Anyhow, there was five of those players on that team that eventually went to the Washington Senators to play Major League Ball.

Michael Golnick: Okay, so they probably had a contract with the Senators?

J. Leroy Muir: Oh, yeah, they did. They were affiliated with the Senators at the time. That's true.

Michael Golnick: So, in other words, one of the reasons that the way that they continued to operate was because they got money from the big guys.

J. Leroy Muir: For support. And of course, they could get players, too. But hell, very interesting.

Michael Golnick: And the brand of baseball must have been pretty good, though.

J. Leroy Muir: I would say it was excellent. Yeah, yeah. I know. I have an uncle who coached and managed in the Eastern Shore League and played a lot of baseball, and I've heard him say many times that if you could pick a group of ball players from this area, the Delmarva Peninsula, that he could play against any AA or AAA team, he said, that's the confidence he had in the players. And of course, a lot of players from the Eastern shore, they were happy just to stay at home. They didn't want to they didn't want to move. You know, they're, geographically, they liked it here and even though they were offered to sign a contract to go to spring training, they wouldn't do it. That's that sand between your toes [laughs] but anyhow in 1941, of course, you know with the war on there was really two main reasons why the league folded. And one of them was that two of the teams dropped out. Pocomoke City and I think it was Cambridge, or one of, I forget now. But anyhow, two of them dropped out and only two teams showed a profit and one of them was Salisbury, and had it not been for World War II, they think that the Eastern Shore League would have survived for a few more years. But it's understandable. I mean, when teams drop out, that's a sign that there's something wrong, you know, so.

Michael Golnick: Well of course, I suspect, with World War II, all the sudden there was a tremendous patriotism fervor and a lot of the guys who were playing ball went into the military, and you sort of had

J. Leroy Muir: And with the towns being relatively small, and you take a group of men that are drafted into the war, that's going to take away from the team strength. And so, if they don't have the strength to compete, they're not going to float. It's understandable.

Michael Golnick: So, the war took a lot of people away, and I guess that was kind of your formative years of growing up, like you were saying. So, when you were playing, I guess they still had the sports around, but it was a little bit different wasn't it?

J. Leroy Muir: It was, yeah.

Michael Golnick: You know.

J. Leroy Muir: Well, that's true.

Michael Golnick: But did you have a pretty good following for the high school sports that you mentioned? I mean, you know, during the war years.

J. Leroy Muir: Well, what you have to remember, well I didn't play during the war years, '41-'45, because I was still at that age group where you couldn't play organized baseball. We played sandlot, catch, and you know, this sort of thing. But then when the war was over, that's when things really got good again. And people were coming of age, the guys were coming back from the war, and they wanted to do something.

Michael Golnick: So, baseball was important.

J. Leroy Muir: Oh, yeah. And there were several people that were individuals that were responsible for reviving the Eastern Shore League in 1946. And Mr. John Curry(?) of Centreville was one of them, Mr. W.K. Knotts(?) of Federalsburg and Dr. Walter Greer(?) Of Milford, who was personal friends with Connie Mac of the Athletics, and would supply him occasionally with players from the Eastern Shore here, and Fred Lucas of Cambridge who was a magnificent individual and was probably the most influential person in the redevelopment of the league, with his knowledge of the ways of how the shore people felt and acted. During his nine years, he had lived in the Cambridge area, and the Cambridge Canterers 1922 to 1927 and the Cambridge Cardinals, a lot of people don't remember that Cambridge team was the Cardinals at one time, and that was in '37 to '41. Along with the Salisbury Indians, far and away the most successful franchises of the two previous Eastern Shore Leagues. They both had fair ballparks for their day. But by 1946, a major league operators wanted parks far superior to those that had been utilized in the previous ventures of the Eastern Shore League. So, Mr. Lucas knew that if the major league club would provide financial assistance in either renovating old parks or building new parks. the others would follow the leader and add their support. So, and he thought, "Well, if this happened, then maybe the league might resume again." So, what he did was he went to Brooklyn on several occasions during the winter of 1945 to drive a bargain with Branch Rickey on the organization of the Eastern Shore League and specifically to have the Dodgers support a team in Cambridge.

Michael Golnick: I was kind of wondering; I did saw the Cambridge that changed their name and they're Canterers and I saw pictures on the wall here that said Dodgers.

J. Leroy Muir: That's right. Exactly. Anyhow, he must have been really a very personable individual because what he did was, he invited Branch Rickey down here on the Eastern Shore for some fishing trips and then later for some duck getting and hunting trips, okay, and this seemed to work well as Mr. Rickey agreed to build a park in Cambridge. $60,000, as long as that they would call it the Cambridge Dodgers. And so that's exactly what would happen, and that's how things got started again.

[First recording ends]

[Second recording begins]

Mike Golnick: We were with Muir and we were talking about the 1946 to '49 Eastern Shore League, and we were talking about the Cambridge Dodgers and Grand Prix(?).

J. Leroy Muir: So what really happened was by Branch Rickey coming forth with the support for the Cambridge Dodgers, then the rest of the Major League teams kind of fell in a line, and then we had the Eastern Shore League of 1946 through '49. And this was a very prominent time here and they did very well. We had, the ball park was out where the Civic Center is now, and there were called the Salisbury Cardinals, and of course there was a Cambridge team and Easton, Milford was in it, Seaford was in it, and I remember going to some of those games, because I remember seeing Frank Malzahn playing and he went to the Red Sox later. And Mel Parnell was with Centreville, lefthander Pitcher, and he went with the Red Sox, and of course, Norm's auction set all kinds of records, and Steve Bilko was here.

Mike Golnick: Bilko played for the Dodgers and (inaudible) played Red Sox with him, which team do you remember, do you remember which one was a Red Sox farm team where they just pulled players?

J. Leroy Muir: Milford was a Red Sox farm team, yeah, and Cambridge was the Dodgers, Salisbury was the Cardinals. Seaford was [pauses] you know, I'm not really sure. You got so many you get them mixed up every once and a while. But they were all affiliated with a Major League team.

Mike Golnick: Major League Team, and they were paying the players, and the crowds were pretty good. What happened in '46 that the league stopped at '49?

J. Leroy Muir: Well, I've always said that one of the reasons why that it folded was the lack of attendance was a great thing. Because at that period of time, we had other things going on in the area. You know, there was a television was coming on, on the scene, okay, the [pauses] Now I don't mean that the attendance was bad, money wasn't that good with it at that time, either.

Mike Golnick: Minor league baseball was down?

J. Leroy Muir: I think that maybe softball had something to do with it, too, it was starting to come into popularity about 1950.

Mike Golnick: Slow pitch or fast pitch?

J. Leroy Muir: Fast pitch.

Mike Golnick: That's where some of us old baseball players sort of went for a while until they sort of tried to get baseball, you know, for the old. There are still some leagues in the late 20th century and 21st century for some of us older gentlemen [Muir laughs] like, 40s and 50s.

J. Leroy Muir: You don't mean like Over the Hill gang, or? [laughs]

Mike Golnick: Well, one of them, one of the leagues I saw an article on was called the Ponce de León League, so you know that goes back.

J. Leroy Muir: Well, but, but anyhow I think it just—the city was not supporting team like it should, and attendance was really bad.

Mike Golnick: Did the African-Americans support baseball in town, you know, the Salisbury League?

J. Leroy Muir: I think to a certain degree that they did, yeah. They had their own teams.

Mike Golnick: I understand they had their own teams. I was just wondering if they came to the games.

J. Leroy Muir: Well, I mean, some of them did, certainly, yeah. And, but of course then on weekends they had their own schedule for play, also. It took away from the attendance, which I think was a big factor.

Mike Golnick: They didn't feel like to play the game, so you probably have to get a sort of a competition that the white leagues, the African-American leagues, and then you have the minor league teams and people had to pay to go to those where you want to watch these, and personal enjoyment, and plus, you probably knew some of the people there, so you had another (inaudible)

J. Leroy Muir: Yeah, it was interesting.

Mike Golnick: So now, we have, Salisbury has been part of the Sally League since, is it 1996?

J. Leroy Muir: '96, yes. But of course, we came in with a Montreal team because the Orioles couldn't furnish a team at that time, but then in '97, we've been affiliated with the Orioles ever since.

Mike Golnick: Well it was a little bit different type of baseball of the day. Yes, that's interesting that just getting off subject here, to a degree, the Sally League goes down to, I think, doesn't go down to Georgia?

J. Leroy Muir: Oh, yeah.

Mike Golnick: They go down and they play teams in Georgia and I know West Virginia, and North Carolina, [both speaking]

J. Leroy Muir: Now we've got some new teams. We have one in Ohio and we've got one in Tennessee, and one in Ohio, one in New Jersey. We have three new teams.

Mike Golnick: That's a that's a lot of experience. And you know, those guys, they're riding that Greyhound somewhere and it's sitting in that bus greater than an hour, that's a thrill, and they have good quality baseball come out of it.

J. Leroy Muir: But they're riding in much better motor transportation than I did when I played ball in North Carolina, we just rode in an old bus.

Mike Golnick: An old school bus.

J. Leroy Muir: An old school bus, that's right. These guys got air conditioning, and good seats, and probably a way to stretch out.

Mike Golnick: And then, of course, they've got their own toys, like their sound machines and their video games. It's stuff passing the time of day. Got a couple of questions here in relation to the African-Americans, as as we all know, that Jackie Robinson came into baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers, as you mentioned before, and Branch Rickey and I feel Jackie Robinson changed the face of baseball because he brought in some people who have been neglected.

J. Leroy Muir: Certainly did.

Mike Golnick: Your comments on that?

J. Leroy Muir: Well, I think that when you when you look back in history with how the African-Americans were treated and what have you, it was inevitable that this was going to come about. And it's just, not a matter of how, but when. And of course, it did happen. And this broke loose the opportunity for some of the real good African-Americans to get into the Major Leagues. And I mean, look at you know, I mean. Satchel Paige. He ended up pitching at I forget what age, he was forty-some years old, you know. And one of the things I'd like to mention right here is Willie Mays has a great saying about about his career. He says, "Every time I get a paycheck," he says, "I thank Jackie Robinson." It seems that he was saying he opened the door.

Mike Golnick: Yeah. Well, you know, Mr. William Miles, who, you know, played with the Oaksville Eagles told me in his interview that Jackie Robinson was not that good a ballplayer for the Negro League. He said that he was somebody that could, had such a great personality to put up with all the abuses and everything, Branch Rickey picked him where there was other guys of the greater hitters, greater fielders, and more dynamic. But Jackie Robinson was right for the times and he, him and Larry Doby, trail blazers.

J. Leroy Muir: That's true, and they had some great players. I mean, like Josh Gibson and all those guys. I mean, they were just good. I mean, and then, of course, there's a lot of history that they have. And we've got some books on them and what have you, and they had some great teams, the Greys and the Monarchs. And, of course, you know, we've got Judy Johnson has Good Morning Snow Hill.

Mike Golnick: I was going to ask you about Mr. Johnson, when I started doing this investigation of Eastern Shore baseball, I noted Judy, William Julius Johnson was from Snow Hill, and he's a member of Baseball's Hall of Fame, he's a six from the Negro League. Any information, you want to talk about Mr. Johnson?

J. Leroy Muir: Well, he was the first one to go in to Cooperstown(?) as a black player, which is a milestone. He played third base for, I forget how many years, for the Greys and the Monarchs and a couple other teams, and then he later not only managed but became a scout also for a couple of teams. So, he was very well versed in and had the knowledge of the game to be able to accomplish what he did.

Mike Golnick: Your exhibit in the hall there has a great article by the Wilmington newspaper journal, naming him the sportsman of the century, and it told about how great a ballplayer he was. And I think Connie Mack said his only problem was he was born, if he had been white, he could've named a price. And, according to Johnson, he said that he was born too soon, and they, the comment that was made in his interview, was that he was a teacher of the game.

J. Leroy Muir: Teacher of the game and helped put baseball on the map, that's true, yeah. We have some really great people, I mean of course, there was so many great African-American players, and there still are.

Mike Golnick: What about, how about the Seaford Hawks? You have a big display of them. I tried to take a picture of them.

J. Leroy Muir: Let me tell you a little bit about the Seaford Hawks, how they came about as a team. It was a fellow by the name of Reuben Collins who was in World War II. And when he came out of the service, back to his hometown of Seaford, and he's seen what was going on and it wasn't enough interest with some of the young players to do things, you know. He said, "we need to form a baseball team." So that's what he did, he went to work and formed the baseball team the Seaford Hawks. I know another man that doesn't live here now in this area, but lives across the Bay Bridge and his name is, I got it right here, some place. [shuffling noises] Anyhow, it doesn't make any difference. He backed Reuben in to helping get this team together, and there has been five of them that's been nominated to be inducted into this Hall of Fame. But we've only inducted one so far, and that's Reuben Collins, the man who organized, but they were they were one of the better black teams in this area against the Oaksville Eagles and the Queen City Tigers. And then, of course, Laurel had a team and so many other ones had black teams, I'd seen a couple of them play.

Mike Golnick: What do you remember about it?

J. Leroy Muir: Very much alive all the time, quick, reflex is good, desire to play.

Mike Golnick: Do you think you're—

J. Leroy Muir: But yet at the same time enjoying their selves. This is a lot of people take things too serious. Sometimes they don't enjoy the game, like I think that they should.

Mike Golnick: Well, I've noticed the Oaksville Eagles, and Sam Owens(?) and Allison Owns(?) and Mr. Jones is on the board of directors here, and a number of teams here, and from the information I have, he was sort of a, kind of like the, Reuben Collins that you were talking about, he was kind of that way—

J. Leroy Muir: When they organized the Oaksville Eagles, that's true, and made them into the team to be reckoned with, you know. And what's another thing that's interesting about the Oakville Eagles, is they knew the white players, too. I mean, all of them, of course, sometimes they'd play each other. But if they were short a couple of players sometimes, and had to play a game, they would grab a couple of guys from the from the white teams to fill in, so they would have enough players. And I've talked to a couple of them, they said, you know, just were normal guys, they just, you know, never had any problem playing with them at all.

Mike Golnick: One to play a game, but integration in this area didn't really take place until in the sixties, and it was a troubled period from all the information I know from not being from this area.

J. Leroy Muir: There certainly was some differences, and that's for sure, and that's been worked out, you know. And that's what is eventually going to happen to it. But the Queens City Tigers was another good team and of course Mr. Dillman(?) was responsible for some of that. He, of course, is deceased now, but he served on the board of directors, the original board of directors, and was with us for many, many years and was instrumental in getting some of the players inducted into the Hall of Fame that deserved to be here.

Mike Golnick: I noticed that you had been inducted

J. Leroy Muir: Yeah, you know, I feel very grateful that I was. It's a special, a special feeling to be inducted into—I look at it this way, I look at all the old players that I see inducted that I feel that as though was a lot better than I was, okay. Just good to be with this group, you know. And of course, my uncle, I have an uncle, two uncles that's in here and a cousin that played minor league ball and my uncle played major league ball. I come from a ball playing family, you know.

Mike Golnick: And that's, a lot of people don't realize, that that's where the teaching is done. You tagged along with the brothers, and they taught you to the right way, and they probably threw at you, and picked on you, and did things of that nature.

J. Leroy Muir: I remember going to baseball games at Princess Anne with my dad when I was, you know, just very small. But I was impressed by sitting there and watching these players play on Sundays, and just seemed to be enjoying their self but yet they were very good too.

Mike Golnick: Yeah, today you don't you don't see that, of course you're, you have camps and things of the sort, kids don't go out and play, sort of on their own like in the old days, you have so many modern conveniences.

J. Leroy Muir: There's a lot to take them away from other interests that they have, yeah, this is true.

Mike Golnick: Some of the people I have to note here, I mentioned here, people like Bill Miles, George Stewart, Kirkhall, Jessie Lucas [names spelled phonetically pending verification], some of those people, because in our work I've met these people, and they were on the Oaksville Eagles, and I suspect they were all—

J. Leroy Muir: —they were all good, yeah.

Mike Golnick: And Mr. (inaudible) them, I guess.

J. Leroy Muir: Oh yeah, he was very, a lot of influence he had on those individuals, and Sam was very personable, yeah.

Mike Golnick: Yeah, that's what I heard. We're sort of, we're a little bit towards the close here. How about your feelings about baseball and its effect on your life?

J. Leroy Muir: It definitely has made my life more enjoyable. When you can play at something that you really like and you have a labor of love for, you're going to have to do it better. Play it better. Feel good about it, and then you can see the results. But one of the things that I really think back on is, I helped coach and manage teams later in my life and I can see where I had influence on players, too, by knowing what I had experienced. And this made me feel good knowing that I've helped them improve theirself, and I think that's what it's all about is these guys are, that form these Little League teams years ago and what have you, today they need to deserve a lot of credit for getting the youth involved, keeping them off the streets, getting in trouble and stuff. And they learn something, and some of them eventually went to the Minor and Major Leagues. So, yes, it was it was a good experience.

Mike Golnick: But what do you think about baseball today? We touched on that on our in between talking, you get a big smile on your face and I know we've got to go, so go ahead and-

J. Leroy Muir: Well, if I look at baseball today. I don't take away from the players because there's a lot of exceptionally good players today, I mean, really good players. But baseball today has got to do things that I think hurt a lot of it: it's entertainment and there's a lot of money. And I think it takes away from some of the players ability to improve yourself from one year to the next. In other words, they don't have an incentive—I've always said that if a player bats 305 this particular year, and he gets a raise, say $10,000 raise, and then the next year only bets to 275, then he didn't deserve a raise, he's got to prove that he can bat better than that three, whatever it was he batted in order to move up, you know. I may say, well with a pitcher if he's got a low earning average, pay him accordingly. You know, but now a lot of them know they're going to be making $11, $12 million a year. So, I don't know, the incentives been taken away. But don't get me wrong, we still have a lot of good ball players.

Mike Golnick: What's your feelings about Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds breaking Babe Ruth and Roger Maris' record and, I would say probably Barry Bonds has real good chance to break Babe Ruth's 715 and Hank Aaron's 755. You know, if did so decide to play.

J. Leroy Muir: Well, I think this was eventually going to happen, you know. When you look at the big picture, the thing that a lot of people don't know or don't think about is that even though that Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record, it took him longer to do it, and more at bats and more of this. Well if you put in perspective, you know, Babe Ruth was able to put baseball on the map, okay, he was a personable figure and everybody liked him, and he did great things for baseball. But so is Aaron, and so does McGwire, and Bonds and those guys, and I think Bonds will break the record I mean, how are you going to stop it? McGwire same way, I mean. Records are made to be broken, you know, except maybe it might be one that might not be broken, that's Ted Williams' batting average. Over 400, I mean, that's going to be hard.

Mike Golnick: How about Cal [Ripken]'s gamestreak?

J. Leroy Muir: Nobody thought that would be broken, either.

Mike Golnick: Or maybe Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak. You know, it's very interesting. We have a, the museum has a display on somebody who I thought was a great ball player and I still think he was a great ball player, but he got himself into some problems and that's Pete Rose and your feelings on Pete Rose and the display out there, sort of highlight, should he be in the Hall of Fame or not?

J. Leroy Muir: Yeah, if you was to go, just by his statistics and his playing ability, and batting averages, and all this, sure. Then we have to get into another situation as to what he did, and I've always said that he just happened to be one of the ones that got caught and who knows? I mean.

Mike Golnick: He has a tendency to be a little arrogant and sometimes if you're arrogant and youre rude to people, people are looking out for you.

J. Leroy Muir: That's true.

Mike Golnick: What would you say, you know, baseball was the sport of the Eastern Shore until into the sixties, and then all of a sudden?

J. Leroy Muir: In '59, when the Central Shore League folded, softball took over.

Mike Golnick: Now we're able to talk about fast pitch softball.

J. Leroy Muir: Fast pitch softball. And this was at a time when television was really going strong, other avenues of entertainment. A lot of people were able to afford boats, and we're going boating on Sunday, fishing. Actually, it took away from the ball playing. And the players from World War II, where they came back and everything, were getting to an age where they were sometimes ready to hang it up.

Mike Golnick: [Interviewer says something about softball, inaudible] Kind of interesting.

J. Leroy Muir: We're kind of going through different phases.

Mike Golnick: Yeah, that that's one of the things by doing this work, you know, I noticed that we do have an Eastern Shore League that's kind of a semi-pro league, and there's some good ballplayers out there and it struggled. So, I mean, baseball is still alive, but, you know, I guess now we got soccer out there, and football—

J. Leroy Muir: Lacrosse.

Mike Golnick: —Lacrosse, and basketball and tennis, so. We really would like to thank you very much, it's been very entertaining for me, to reach out(?) And sit out here and talk and I hope that this hasn't been inconvenient, because your wealth of knowledge, and we will certainly present that to the people.

J. Leroy Muir: My pleasure. I mean, any time that you can talk baseball, if you love it like I do, why, that's an asset, you know that you have and the only thing I would like to see is more people that come to the games, would come to the museum because a lot of people don't even know that we're here, and they just walk right by the door and up into the elevator, and out to the ball field. But we are getting more exposure and I appreciate you doing this because it's going to help us and we've got more people that are writing articles in the paper for us and this just helps.

Mike Golnick: The Nabb Center for Salisbury University has a very colorful display about like what you have in the museum here and a bunch of people were talking to me about it, and I had already seen it and that was sort of the reason I came over here snooping, or investigating and then I ran into you so, thank you again, sir.

J. Leroy Muir: I appreciate you coming by Mike, and anytime I can help you out, just let me know.

Mike Golnick: Okay.

[Second recording ends]