By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
Philadelphia lost a sports hero and ambassador for baseball when Stanley “Doc” Glenn, former catcher of the Negro League’s Philadelphia Stars died of natural causes last Saturday He was 84.
Glenn, a graduate of John Bartram High School, played for the Stars from 1944-1950, shortly before Jackie Robinson’s debut in Major League Baseball led to the end of the Negro Leagues. Glenn served as president of the Negro League Players Association.
In 2006, Glenn wrote the book, “Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Joy Away: An Inside Look at Negro League Baseball and Its Legacy.” That title speaks to what a true joy it was to talk to Glenn during my years as a sportswriter here in Philadelphia. He was never bitter or angry about the racism he experienced while traveling through the South playing baseball for the Stars.
“Ignorance doesn’t claim any one in particular. If you’re ignorant and your dumb, then you’re just plain ignorant and dumb,” Glenn said.
Mr. Glenn, as I called him, had always been one of my favorite interview subjects because he loved telling all the stories about his days in Negro League baseball and he was a passionate griot of the African-American experience in baseball. I don’t think anyone can truly experience the color of the things that he and I talked about by simply reading his words.
Like his good friend and former Kansas City Monarchs manager Buck O’Neil, you had to sit with Glenn in person or talk to him over the phone to really to appreciate his passion for baseball and the history of Negro League baseball. I thank God for the times I had the opportunity to just sit and talk baseball with him.
As a journalist, you always like to interview subjects to that are interesting and at the very least talkative enough to give you a good quote in print or a good sounbyte in broadcast. Sometimes, you have to ask questions to get it out of people. With Glenn, I only had to turn on my tape recorder and break out my note pad to get him to talk. All I had to do was listen.
Glenn’s fondest memories were of playing at the old ballpark at 44th and Belmont in West Philadelphia. The park was next to a rail yard that often spewed out thick black coal to the point where the games had to be stopped periodically while the smoke cleared. Still, he said Black people were big baseball fans back then and came out clad in the suits and dresses they wore to church to watch the Stars.
“Let me tell you something, fella, Negro League baseball was a happening in the Black world,” Glenn said in an interview we did in 2005. “Women came to the ballpark dressed in their Sunday best, high heel shoes, silk stockings and they had hats on their heads on their hats and long-sleeved gloves … Let me tell you something we married some of the girls. They would be there dressed to kill. You would think you were at a cotillion.”
As a player, Glenn played with and against players like the great Satchel Paige. He said liked catching for Paige because he was always around the plate.
The thing I most respected and admired about Glenn was his honesty and his passion for the history of Negro League baseball. The thing that probably bothered him the most was that today’s generation of African-Americans have very little to no knowledge of Negro League Baseball.
“It ticks me off that our young Black kids don’t know that there was a Negro Leagues and so they don’t know any of the players and it’s not taught in schools,” Glenn said. “I am hoping that one of these books that will come out is going to make a history so that it can be taught in schools.”
Glenn was one of the great griots in the great African-American oral tradition and he will be sorely missed. Now, he’s in heaven hanging out hanging out with Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, and Buck O’Neil laughing, joking and telling tall tales of their exploits as players.