By Norman (Otis) Richmond
Africans in the U.S. and Latin America, South America and the Dutch Caribbean played baseball and those from the former British West Indies played cricket.
My father Norman Lee Richmond was a serious baseball man. For some reason he was fascinated with first base and wanted me to play that position. However, I told him I wanted to play centre field like Willie Mays, the “Say Hey Kid”.
I had two problems. Number one was Bobby Tolan and number two was Willie Crawford. Both Tolan and Crawford attended the same junior and senior high schools as me, Thomas Edison Jr. High and John C. Fremont High School. Tolan and Crawford wanted to play the same position.
While I once defeated Crawford in a 50-yard dash on Edison’s schoolyard and ran on the same relay team with him in the Junior Olympics at the Los Angeles (Cilium) he and Tolan were far better hitters.
As a result I started running the 120 low hurdles but gave them up when a beautiful sister heard me singing and I no longer had to worry about Crawford or Tolan.
Tolan is a former centre and right fielder in Major League Baseball. Los Angeles-born Tolan played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1965-68), Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates.
His son Robbie Tolan was on the way to playing in the major league until Jeffery Cotton shot him in 2008. A jury later acquitted Cotton. Tolan was unarmed.
Willie Crawford was born in Los Angeles in 1946 and died in 2004. He was a Major League Baseball outfielder who played with Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics.
Crawford was a great all-around athlete at Fremont High School in Los Angeles. He was all-city in both football (1963) and baseball. With 9.7 speed in 100 yards and was sought after by colleges to play football. But long-time Dodger Tommy Lasorda, then a scout, signed Crawford for the Dodgers for $100,000 two days after he graduated from high school in 1964.
I also have links with major cricket players. Esmond Kentish, born Nov. 21, 1916, who joined the ancestors on June 10, 2011, was my father-in-law. Kentish was a Caribbean cricketer who played in two Tests from 1948 to 1954.
He was born in Cornwall Mountain, Westmoreland, Jamaica. At the time of his death he was the oldest living West Indian Test cricketer, and the fourth oldest Test cricketer from any country.
According to Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper, “In his professional life he was the first Black general manager of the Bank of Jamaica and was conferred with the Order of Distinction for services to the bank.”
Kentish played for Oxford University, winning a Blue at 39, and Jamaica, making his West Indies debut in the fourth test against Gubby Allen’s England side at his home ground Sabina Park in 1948. He was overlooked for the next six years before earning a recall for the first test against Len Hutton’s England side in 1954 at Sabina Park.
After retiring as a player, Kentish went on to become a director of the WICB and a life member of the Jamaica Cricket Association. He also managed the West Indies team in 1973 and 1975.
The first time I met Mr. Kentish was in 1986. I was married to his daughter Kathleen Yvonne Kentish. We listened to Jamaican radio and discussed African, African American and Caribbean history. Free I, who died with Wolde Semayat (Peter Tosh) was on the radio. Free I was calling for a national holiday for Marcus Garvey and Mr. Kentish did not agree.
His position was there were too many holidays in August. My position was that, unlike Jamaica’s other national sheroes / heroes (Nanny of the Maroons), Samuel Sharpe, George William Gordon, Paul Bogle, Norman Washington Manley and Sir Alexander Bustamante, Garvey was internationally known.
John Henrik Clarke pointed out, “The King of Swaziland later told Mrs. Marcus Garvey that he knew the names of only two Black men in the Western world: the boxer Jack Johnson and Marcus Garvey.”