Charley Pride was a legend in country music, but he was also a legend on the baseball diamond. No, he didn’t set any home run records, and his stint in the major leagues was fleeting. But as a Negro League player who helped integrate Major League Baseball, and later helped support baseball in an ownership capacity, his legacy looms large there as well, especially with the Texas Rangers.
That is why on Sunday (3-14), the Texas Rangers officially dedicated one of the fields at their training facility in Surprise, Arizona to the country legend, who passed away on December 12th at the age of 86.
“The Texas Rangers join the Country Music world in mourning the loss of Charley Pride,” the team said in December. “While Mr. Pride was a legendary performer who entertained millions of fans in the United States and around the world, we will remember him as a true friend to this franchise. Mr. Pride’s first love was baseball. He pitched professionally in the Negro and Minor Leagues throughout the 1950’s before embarking on his Hall of Fame singing career of more than 60 years.”
Later Charley Pride became part of the ownership of the Texas Rangers, and a regular participant at Texas Rangers spring training camps working out with the team and staging an annual clubhouse concert for players and staff—a tradition that continued up through last spring. One of the last performances Charley Pride ever gave was singing the National Anthem in July 2020 at the first-ever baseball game played at the team’s new Globe Life Field in Arlington.
Charley’s first dream was to be a professional baseball player. In 1952 he joined the Memphis Red Sox as a pitcher, which began his career in the Negro American League. Pride was once traded from the Louisville Clippers to the Birmingham Black Barrons for a team bus—the only player trade in baseball history that included a motor vehicle.
Pride’s dream of making it in the major leagues was cut short when he was drafted into the US Army in 1956. However he continued his baseball career while enlisted for the “All Army” team, and returned to civilian baseball after being discharged, playing in the Pioneer league, and trying out for The California Angels and New York Mets.
“A longtime resident of the [Dallas-Fort Worth] area, he was a regular at home games when his schedule permitted… Mr. Pride was a true gentleman, and we will never forget the lasting contributions he has made to the Texas Rangers organization.”
Video of the dedication of Charley Pride Field can be seen below.
Introducing Charley Pride Field!— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) March 14, 2021
You are greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/v46HyO2EQ3