The integration of softball at Garfunkel Field during the 1940s ushered in the greatest sports era in the history of The Bahamas, with emphasis on the mixture of the social orders of the day.
The participation of persons of color along with acknowledged whites at Garfunkel Field spilled over abundantly to baseball at Clifford Park. It was the compelling mixed social environment of softball that transferred smoothly to baseball. It is generally accepted that softball was at the fully organized stage several years before baseball.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that baseball began to gain in popularity, in particular with the advancement of Andre Rodgers into pro baseball. He joined the New York Giants farm system in 1954 and later the Major League team in 1957. During that early period, whites and players of color mixed liberally in softball and baseball like no other era since.
By the early 1970s only a sprinkling of whites were still involved in competitive softball and baseball. This trend continued through the ensuing decades and is even more pronounced today. Thus, the special aspect of the presence of the Garfunkel Field League remains quite significant.
Joseph Strachan in causing me to reflect on yesteryear in Bahamian sports history, with his recent letter, noted some names that later on, became considered borderline in the persons of color grouping.
“Royal Crown was comprised of black/brown players who mostly resided in the Virginia Street area of New Providence. For all practical purposes this was the Western Sporting Club. The players/coaches on this team included: Adrian D’Aguilar (Vincent “Flappers” D’Aguilar’s brother), Francis Cancino, Foster Bethel, Bernice Albury, Charles Lunn, Tex Lunn, Charles “Geechie” Moss, Vivian “Nickey” Moss, Oswald Isaacs, (Cecil or Gurt) Gonzales, Jerry Isaacs, Austin Pyfrom, Phil Antonio the coach, and Geoffery “Dagger” Jones.
“Some of the (other) prominent players in the Garfunkel League during this period were: Billy “Red Top” Lowe, Max “Gubba” Minns, Uel Sawyer, Vincent Higgs, Percy Knowles, Basil Albury, Bill Pinder, Gordon Carey, Peter Isaacs, Rene Albury, Larry Simms, David Albury, Donald Black, Ian Allen, Sloan Farrington, Cedric Saunders, Donald Butler (the businessman, not the entertainer by the same name), Roy Newbold, Buck Johnson, Barry Russell, Valdo Proza and Roger Pyfrom.”
So, communicated Strachan.
Now, the presence of Peter Isaacs in that latter group would certainly raise eyebrows. To the best of my knowledge, through the many years I have known Peter he has always been considered at most, a borderline person of color.
Nevertheless, the context, the circumstances of which Strachan reflects are easily understood. The Garfunkel Field League which evolved into the more encompassing competition at the John F. Kennedy Park, despite the early social imbalance, did in fact bring players of different ethnic backgrounds together like never before or after, in this country.
Strachan has informed that he is embarking on a mission, regarding the patriarch of Garfunkel Field.
“Later this year I will mount a campaign to have Mr. Joseph Garfunkel (a white American Jew) inducted into the Bahamas National Sports Hall of Fame. I can think of no other person, Bahamian or expatriate who contributed more personal finances to the development of sports in The Bahamas. Consider, for example softball (Garfunkel Field), basketball (Garfunkel/Aquinas Auditorium), and bowling (The Bowling Alley that once thrived at the Palmdale Shopping Center). It was Mr. Garfunkel who introduced organized softball to The Bahamas,” said Strachan.
He concluded by bringing attention to teams that developed in the Middle Eastern section of New Providence.
Strachan recollected the Warriors (Caanan Lane/Hawkins Hill); The Barrys (from the Bus Yard which is now Harbor Bay Shopping Center); the Lyon Road Lions (Lyon Road/Freetown); the Mackey Street Tigers (Mackey Street North/ Okra Hill/The Pond); and the St. Margaret Sun Sox (Kemp Road/St. James Road/Five Pound Lot).
The stroll down memory lane with Joseph Strachan has been pleasant indeed. I am complimented by the appreciation he has demonstrated for this forum and look forward to further dialogue with this newly discovered sports historian.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com or on WhatsApp 727-6363).
Published Thursday, March 23, 2017