Reggie Jackson says racism he experienced playing in Birmingham made his return for Negro Leagues tribute ‘not easy’


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By Dalia Faheid and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Negro League legend Bill Greason throws out the ceremonial first pitch as Reggie Jackson looks on, prior to the 2024 Rickwood game between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals at Rickwood Field on Thursday in Birmingham, Alabama. 
(Daniel Shirey/MLB/MLB Photos/Getty Images)

Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson said it was difficult to return to Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, for the Negro Leagues tribute game Thursday because of the onslaught of racism he experienced when he played there decades ago.

In 1967, before he climbed up to the majors, Jackson played with the Birmingham A’s in the Double-A Southern League as one of the few Black players on the team. The team played at Rickwood Field.

The baseball legend, who was part of Fox’s broadcast crew for Thursday’s game, said during the broadcast that his return to the place where his baseball career kicked off was “not easy.”

“The racism when I played here, the difficulty of going through different places where we traveled,” Jackson said on the Fox broadcast. “Fortunately I had a manager and I had players on the team that helped me get through it, but I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

He said he would never want to relive that part of his life.

“I walked into restaurants and they would point at me and say ‘a n***er can’t eat here.’ I would go to a hotel and they would say, ‘a n***er can’t stay here,’” he said.

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