Norfolk native, one of about 100 of the leagues’ players still alive, shares memories
With its kickoff game approaching, America’s most popular sport must recognize the challenges off the field could be more daunting than those on it.
As a young boy growing up in Norfolk, Sam Allen was introduced to baseball at an early age by his grandfather.
He used to take Allen to see the Norfolk Stars play whenever they were in town.
“That was before integration,” Allen said. “The old-timers would meet there. That was their clubhouse. … What my grandmother did was smart, she’d make him carry me. So, after the game, he got to come home because he had to bring me. That’s when I fell in love with the game.”
Allen, along with his friends — including former Negro Leagues player Walter Lundy — would get together whenever they could to work on their skills.
Though he stood 5-foot-7, the left-handed outfielder carried a powerful bat.
“We used to play with a tennis ball and play with a broomstick,” said Allen, who also starred in football for Booker T. Washington High, once scoring six touchdowns in a game. “That’s how you got that bat speed. … I enjoyed baseball. During that time, you didn’t have any air condition … so we stayed outdoors all day. We’d play from morning until night. You didn’t have that television like you have now or the luxury of the phones and all that. Baseball was really the only thing that we had.”
Allen was good enough to play in the Negro Leagues,
Ne ever has the NFL doubted it would open its sseason on time. For months, it has stea adfastly stuck to its plans, even as the cor ronavirus pandemic has altered the co ourse of every other sport — on all levels.
With its kickoff game of Super Bowl champion c Kansas City hosting Houston rapidly approaching, possibly with fans in the stands, America’s most popular sport must recognize the challenges off the field could be more daunting than those on it. Particularly after 77 false positive COVID-19 tests last weekend.
“We’re going to have to be flexible and adaptable,” says Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer and, in 2020, for good reason, its most visible executive. “I think that’s something we’ll continue to track and monitor. If this taught us anything, projecting three, four weeks down the road is a hazardous business.”
Many would say playing a collision sport not only is hazardous, but foolhardy. The NFL did
Norfolk’s Sam Allen, 84, dons a jersey and cap of the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the three Negro Leagues teams he played for in the 1950s.