Clifford Layton and Carl Long are former Negro League players who will be at AT&T Field tonight when the Chattanooga Lookouts open a five-game series against the Huntsville Stars.
The Lookouts are recognizing Negro League history tonight, and Layton and Long will be available for autographs. Layton was a pitcher for the New York Black Yankees in 1954, while Long was an outfielder with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1952 and 1953, earning all-star honors in 1953.
On Friday, the two appeared on "Press Row" on ESPN Chattanooga's 105.1 The Zone.
Q: "You both have visited several cities over the last several years to discuss Negro League history. What keeps you touring so much?"
Long: "I try to get to the kids, because that's who I want to tell my stories to. I've been all over the country trying to share my stories with kids. My son is a minister and has 40 churches in the state of South Carolina, and I go to all his churches to talk to kids about staying in school and sharing some of the things that I did in the past.
"If it had not been for baseball, there is no telling where I would be today."
Q: "Clifford, you once played with Jackie Robinson. Parts of the movie '42' were filmed here, and I was wondering how you viewed the accuracy in the film as far as how Robinson was treated?"
Layton: "The film was all about giving fans the idea of what Jackie really encountered in his days of playing baseball, and I thought the film was just beautiful. Jackie encountered things the normal ballplayer would never be able to go through. When Jackie signed with the Dodgers, there was a stipulation in his contract that he could not retaliate for two years, and that in itself brought about a lot of pressure on Jackie.
"Jackie knew at that time that if he failed, it might be centuries before another African-American would be able to play baseball in the major leagues."
Q: "Carl, who was the best player you ever played with or against?"
Long: "Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks. All those guys got to the majors, but there were a whole lot more Negro League players who never did. When Satchel Paige first saw me, he said he had heard about me. He told me to come up here and take my three and then go sit down. I didn't know what to think."
Q: "How did that turn out?
Long: "He won. He said he was going to throw three down the middle to see if I could catch up with them. I looked at the first pitch, and he asked what I was waiting on. On his second pitch, I swung late. He got the ball again, rubbed it and threw me that third pitch, and I walked straight to the dugout.
"He said, 'Let that be a lesson, young fellow. You ain't ready for Uncle Satch.' He could throw hard and could throw it where he wanted."
Q: "As much pride as there must have been watching Jackie break the barrier, was it a little bitter in that it was the beginning of the end of the Negro League?"
Long: "They could have gotten any Negro League ballplayer, because there were a whole lot of players who were better than Jackie. Jackie had the education. He was a quiet person, too, but he could play that game."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.