Saskatchewan celebrates their 1952 all-Black Indian Head Rockets baseball team

Inducts 91-year-old Nat Bates into Hall of Fame

The 1952 Indian Head Rockets all-Black baseball team

Late last year, a 20-minute documentary film was released. It is called Golden Opportunities, and it was about the Indian Head Rockets, an all-black team that was based in Indian Head, Saskatchewan, during the 1940s and 1950s.

The film noted the popularity of baseball but also described the impact of racism on the sport, particularly discrimination against black or Latino athletes in the United States and the contrasting welcome that players received in Indian Head and elsewhere in Canada.

Surviving members Nat Bates (former mayor or Richmond, CA) and Willie Reed tell their story of heading north in 1951 to Canada, first to play in Medicine Hat and then with the Rockets in 1952. Longtime friend Pumpsie Green (who integrated the Red Sox in 1959) came with them. Stars such as Chet Brewer and Tom Alston also played for the Rockets. The 1952 Rockets were inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame this summer

Nat Bates, now 91, travelled to Indian Head, Sask., in 1952 to play with The Indian Head Rockets, an all-Black baseball team originally from Jacksonville, Fla. The team was one of several that competed across the Canadian Prairies in the 1940s and 1950s, providing Black and Cuban players an opportunity that was hard to access in the United States.

Nat Bates

Last Monday, Bates travelled from his home in Richmond, Cali., for a screening of Golden Opportunities and to be inducted into Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame.

“For people to come forward and show that kind of respect after such a long, long period of time, of which I had forgotten most of it, has to be tremendously rewarding,” Bates said.

This trip was Bates’s third to Canada. He said it was the most heartwarming one yet.

“I feel fantastic. The warm welcome that I received throughout my visit during this last trip has been overwhelming,” he said.

Bates said the people of Indian Head made him feel at home during his time playing there.

“In addition to the hospitality of the people in general, oftentimes on Saturdays or after games, families would invite us to their home for dinner. That was unheard of.”

Bates said he believes he is one of only two surviving members from the 1952 team, the other being Willy Reed.