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NEGRO LEAGUER OF THE MONTH
Bill Greason didn't have a Hall of Fame baseball career, but he life has been heroic in many ways.
Greason was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1924, grew up playing baseball and softball, and was a fan of his hometown Atlanta Black Crackers. During World War II, Greason joined the Marines, fighting in the battle of Iwo Jima with an all-black unit.
After being honorably discharged from the military, Greason played a few seasons in the Negro Southern League with the Nashville Black Vols and Ashville Blues, before attracting the attention of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League.
Greason was not a large man, standing five-foot, ten-inches, but he had great movement on his fastball, and a fine curveball.
In 1948, Greason went 7-4 and batted .264 in league games, with some help from his young center fielder, Willie Mays, who was playing in his only season in the Negro American League. The Barons' offense was led by second baseman Piper Davis and Artie Wilson, who batted over .400.
Greason was joined on the Black Barons' pitching staff by Jimmy Newberry, Jehosie Heard, Bill Powell and Alonzo Perry as the Black Barons won the Negro American League pennant with a 55-21 record, then lost in five games in the Negro League World Series to the powerful Homestead Grays who were led by future Major Leaguer Luke Easter.
After another season with the Black Barons, Greason played a couple of years in Mexico before being signed by the St. Louis Cardinals and assigned to the Oklahoma City Indians in the Texas League. In '52 and '53, Greason went 9-1 and 16-13 as the first black professional player in Oklahoma City baseball history and the second in Texas League history. Whether fans came out to cheer or jeer him, they came out in huge numbers to see Greason pitch, and several teams set league attendance records during the '52 and '53 seasons.
Greason spent most of '54 with the Columbus Red Birds of the Triple-A American Association, but he did sip a cup of coffee with the Cardinals in late May and early June as the second black player in team history after Tom Alston. Greason pitched in three games with one loss in his only Big League decision, and his brief Major League stint included a strikeout of Ralph Kiner, and a long home run surrendered to Ernie Banks.
Greason finished the season in the Minors, then pitched from '55-'59 with the Houston Buffaloes and Rochester Red Wings, winning as many as 17 games in a season; Greason ended his Minor League career with a 79-62 record, a 3.95 ERA, and an average of about five strikeouts per game.
Greason was a fair Minor League hitter, batting just under .200 in the Minors with good power, blasting 14 homers in under 500 lifetime at bats.
After retiring from baseball, Greason studied Ministry at Birmingham Baptist Bible College and Samford University and became a minister at the Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham.
Berry Tramel talks baseball history with Bill Greason, who broke OKC's baseball color barrier in 1952. © Copyright http://newsok.com