Throughout the history of sports there have been examples of how athletes and musicians are intertwined with one another, which can be seen with black baseball league players and jazz musicians during the 1930s and 40’s.
“Much like the correlation of hip-hop and basketball in this day and age, jazz and baseball was very much the same in the 30’s and 40’s,” said Robert Cvornyek, a nationally-respected baseball scholar who presented as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series Monday, March 12, at CSU-Pueblo.
The Distinguished Speakers Series, put on by the Office of Student Activities, brings prominent scholars to Pueblo. Cvoneryek, along with Lawrence Hogan, who is also a baseball historian, presented “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got that Swing and Music in the Jim Crow Era.”
Mainly focusing on the time period in which jazz music was so closely associated with the black baseball league, they also presented on how long the community has been playing the game.
“We have testimony that baseball was being played on plantations, during the mid 1800s,” Hogan said. “Slaves were playing baseball when it was created. That’s something special.”
Hogan went on to explain the huge migration of blacks from the south into the north in the early 20th century, he said. This is commonly referred to the “Jim Crowe Era.” During this time in history black baseball players were influencing jazz music, more specifically swing jazz.
Cvoneryek continued by talking about the correlations between music and baseball, including the idea of improvisation. Many times musicians just played their music and didn’t play anything specific, he said.
“The players and musicians had a tremendous relationship because they were on the road together,” Cvoneryek said. “The musicians would watch the players play in the afternoon and the players would watch the musicians at night.”
The presentation also had a video portion that revealed interviews from former black league players and what they could recall from the days of the all-black league.
“If you ask me who I thought the best baseball player of all time was I wouldn’t say Babe Ruth” said a former baseball writer from the video. “I would say Pop Lloyd.”
Lloyd was a former black league player in Atlantic City. He was not the only one that had the opinion Lloyd what the best of all time, Cvoneryek said.
“It goes to show that many players in this league were very good,” Cvoneryek said. “They just didn’t have the opportunity to showcase their talents.”