Aaron Pointer’s historic 1961 season fill with memories of racism
In 1961 Aaron Pointer made history. He would sometimes rather forget it ever happened.
TACOMA, Wash. — Buried in a Tacoma man’s basement are baseball memories he sometimes chooses to bury entirely.
On the one hand, they are historical. Disastrous on the other hand.
“Those are some things you don’t forget,” Aaron Pointer said.
Pointer may be living better at 80 than he was at 20.
“I was the only black player who played on the team at Salisbury [North Carolina]which was absolutely awful,” Pointer said.
“I signed to play pro baseball with the Houston Astros,” said Pointer, who was later assigned to the minor league Salisbury Braves. “They wanted to be a new team in the National League. I did it for the money. We grew up in a poor area and didn’t have much money… (I) had never heard of Salisbury, had never been to North Carolina… I was from Oakland and had never seen the prejudice and racism I lived in experienced Salisbury. It was just unique to me.
This racism led to the civil rights movement.
Pointer said he saw firsthand activists like the Freedom Riders and John Lewis who came to Salisbury to campaign for voter registration.
But those sentiments went unnoticed by the rest of the city.
“(The) bus would stop at restaurants and (my teammates) would go out to dinner and I couldn’t go to any of the places and eat,” Pointer said. “(I) had to go through the back door to see the doctor, the team doctor – couldn’t go through the front door. I was an outfielder and there was a kid in the outfield that shot me with a BB-gun… (There were) newspaper articles complaining that I was on the team and that I was showering with the white players.
It’s been a season of struggle for Pointer, but somehow also a season of success. It was a season where he found a safe place.
“I could have stayed at the ballpark 24 hours a day if I had my way and lived there,” Pointer said.
Instead, Pointer lived in the minds of opposing pitchers.
He started his first pro season with 40 hits in 73 at bats.
“When I played ball, I just played ball,” Pointer said. “I wasn’t worried about all the other stuff.”
At the end of the year, the magic number was within reach. Pointer recalls a conversation he had with his coach before the final game of the season.
“He asked me if I wanted to play or not, and I was like, ‘Why, what do you mean if I want to play?'” Pointer said. “He said, ‘You know you hit .401.’ I said, “So what? Sure, I want to play.” I played in the game and went 2-on-3 and ended up hitting .402 for the season.
Pointer said he believes his historic season will stand the test of time.
But he would rather the memories meet a different fate.
“I never went back to Salisbury,” Pointer said. “I have no intention of returning to Salisbury.”
While the memories were nice at times, they’re memories he’d rather bury completely.
“It’s really taking its toll on you,” Pointer said. “It’s something you know is there but you don’t want to talk about it because it’s just too distracting and too hurtful to talk about.”
Pointer was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1968 after an incident with teammate Rusty Staub.
He played with their Triple-A affiliate, the Tacoma Cubs, for two seasons.
Pointer lived the rest of his life in Tacoma and serves on the board of directors of the Tacoma Athletic Commission.
He is a former NCAA and NFL umpire and the older brother of Grammy-winning The Pointer Sisters.
https://www.king5.com/article/sports/tacoma-baseball-player-aaron-pointer-1961-season/281-27c5de5e-f8b9-44f3-845b-608248fbe46e Aaron Pointer’s historic 1961 season fill with memories of racism