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Lacy, Sam 1903–2003

Sam Lacy 19032003

Journalist, newspaper editor

Advocated for Desegregation in Sports

Covered a Pioneer

A Legend is Born

Selected writings

Sources

Sam Lacy became a pioneering sportswriter for the Afro-American newspaper in Baltimore and was one of the most important early forces in the integration of Major League Baseball. The sportswriter inherited his pioneering spirit from his grandfather, Henry Erskine Lacy, who was the first black detective on the Washington, D.C., police force. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Lacys story is not that he covered all the giants of the twentieth-century sporting worldJoe Louis, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammed Ali, to name a fewbut that he continued to cover sports well into his nineties. He left home for the office at the Afro-American at 3:00 a.m. to do three weekly columns and supervise the layout of the paper. When he became too old to drive after suffering a stroke in 1999, his son brought him to work. When his fingers became too riddled with arthritis to type, he wrote out his column longhand, continuing until shortly before his death in May, 2003. Lacys story began with his selling peanuts to the Jim Crow section of old Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., and it continued until he reached a place of honor in the writers wing at baseballs ultimate shrine, the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Samuel Harold Lacy was born on October 23, 1903, in Mystic, Connecticut, to Samuel Erskine Lacy, a researcher in a Washington, D.C. law firm, and Rose Lacy, a full-blooded Native American from the Shinnecock tribe. Lacys family moved to Washington, D.C., early in his life. Lacys father taught his son to love baseball, and Sam began hanging around the stadium. The young fan would do errands for the players such as buying cigarettes and picking up their laundry. By the time Lacy was nine years old, he was shagging balls in the outfield before games at batting practice. Lacy got a job at the stadium selling popcorn and peanuts in the stands. He also caddied for the winning golfer at the 1921 U.S. Open. His time carrying the bag of Englishman Long Jim Barnes earned him $200. His tip was so enormous that the young man had a difficult time making his mother believe he had earned the princely sum by carrying around a golf bag for four days.

Advocated for Desegregation in Sports

Lacy attended Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C. and played football, baseball, and basketball. After he graduated from high school, he was good enough to play baseball in the local semipro leagues but decided he needed to further his education. He attended Howard University and earned a degree in education with the intention of becoming a coach. Little did he know that his part-time job would turn out to be his career and his crusade.

While attending school in the 1920s Lacy worked part-time at the local African-American paper, the Washington Tribune, earning a nickel for every inch of copy he wrote. After graduation he joined the paper full-time and soon moved into the sports department, where he began a lifelong crusade for fairness in the world of sports. The first big story Lacy wrote involved

At a Glance

Born Samuel Harold Lacy on October 23,1903, in Mystic, CT; son of Samuel Erskine Lacy (a law researcher) and Rose Lacy; died May 8, 2003; married Barbara Lacy, 1928 (widowed, 1969), Education: Howard University, BA in physical education, 1923.

Career: Washington Tribune, sportswriter and editor, 1930-40; Chicago Defender, national sports editor, 1940-43; Baltimore Afro-American, sports editor, 1943-2003. WBAL-TV, Baltimore, MD, sports commentator, 1968-78; radio sports commentator in Baltimore and Washington, DC.

Memberships: Baseball Writers Association of America (first African-American member, 1948).

Awards: Named to Maryland Media Hall of Fame, 1984; Black Athletes Hall of Fame, 1985; Baseball Hall of Fame, J.G. Taylor Spink Award, 1997; Associated Press, Red Smith Award, 1998; enshrined in the writers wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, 1998.

a black football player at Syracuse University. To allow the player to continue on the team, the university claimed that he was not black but a Hindu with Indian ancestry. Lacy wrote a story in 1937 proving that the player was not Indian, but born in Washington, D.C., to African-American parents. When the University of Maryland found out about the black player, it refused to play the game with Syracuse unless Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was removed from the team. The player was taken off the team and Syracuse lost, but the reaction against both universities was so strong that Sidat-Singh played against Maryland the following year.

Lacy then turned his attention to the game of baseball. He met with Clark Griffith, the owner of the Washington Senators, then the local major-league team that eventually became the Minnesota Twins. Lacy suggested that Griffiths last-place team could be turned around by an infusion of new talent from the Negro Leagues: Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, and Josh Gibson were suggested to the owner. Lacy told Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News about his first meeting with a major-league owner: I used that old cliché about Washington being first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League, and that he could remedy that. But he told me that the climate wasnt right. He pointed out there were a lot of Southern ballplayers in the league, that there would be constant confrontations, and, moreover, that it would break up the Negro Leagues. He saw the Negro Leagues as a source of revenue.

But a cause was born. Lacy became one of the earliest and most outspoken voices for desegregation in baseball. In 1940 Lacy moved to Chicago to join the Chicago Defender, a black paper with a national readership. On numerous occasions he sought a meeting with baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to talk about the integration of Major League Baseball, but Lacy never received a reply. After three years of wrangling and agitating, Lacy finally was given a place on the agenda at the 1943 baseball meetings in Cleveland to discuss the issue. At the last minute the paper decided to send noted athlete and actor Paul Robeson to make the case for the black baseball player, a decision on the part of the paper that Lacy took very personally. He told D.L. Cummings of The New York Daily News about his reaction to the snub: That made me furious. All this work I had done on this, for them to send Paul Robeson, who had known Communistic leanings, I questioned the good sense of it all. I knew when the owners saw this guy who admitted to being Communist-oriented, they would simply say, OK, we heard you and dont call us, well call you.

Lacy immediately moved to the Afro-American in Baltimore and continued to press the race issue. He wrote to the owners and suggested an integration committee be formed. Lacy was named to just such a committee with Branch Rickey of the National Leagues Brooklyn Dodgers and Larry MacPhail of the New York Yankees. The group tried to meet, but MacPhail never attended any of the meetings, so Rickey told Lacy that he was going to be integrating baseball on his own. In April of 1945 Major League Baseball got a new commissioner who was not opposed to integration, and six months later the league got its first black ball player when Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a contract for Brooklyns Triple A team in Montreal.

Covered a Pioneer

The Afro-American allowed Lacy to cover Robinson exclusively for the next three years. The black press was unanimous in its support of Robinson, and all agreed he was the man to take the first giant step in integrating Major League Baseball. Robinson had attended UCLA, a racially mixed college, competed against white players, had served with honor in the military, and was engaged to be married. Lacy traveled with Robinson from Montreal, where Robinson played Triple A ball, to the deep south for spring training, and even to Cuba for winter baseball. Lacy witnessed all the trials that Robinson experienced and told Kevin Merida of the Washington Post that it was difficult for Robinson to keep all of his pain and frustration to himself: There were a lot of things that were bothering him. He was taking so much abuse that he said to me that he didnt know whether or not he was going to be able to go through with this because it was just becoming so intolerable, that they were throwing everything at him.

Lacy endured many of the same indignities as Robinson, eating with him in separate facilities and staying at the same segregated rooming houses. Once they woke up in the middle of the night to find a cross burning in front of the rooming house where Robinson and other black journalists were staying. Lacy faced discrimination in the press box also. Lacy had to report on some Dodger games from the dugout because he was not allowed to sit with the other reporters. In New Orleans he was forced to go up on the roof of the press box, but there he was joined by some white writers from New York. As late as 1952 Lacy was denied entry into Yankee Stadium to cover the World Series, though he had been a member of the Baseball Writers of America since 1948 as the organizations first African-American member. But Lacy never dramatized his own situation; he kept the focus on the athletes. He told Merida, It would have been a selfish thing for me to be concerned about myself and how I was treated.

After his victory in desegregating Major League Baseball, Lacy continued to press for fairness in sport. He saw that black ballplayers were having a major impact on their teams records and also on their teams bottom lines. He campaigned to increase their salaries and to have the separate but equal accommodations eliminated. Lacy first brought up the issue of blacks and whites staying in different hotels with the New York Giants (before the team moved to San Francisco). He told the story to Sports Illustrateds Ron Fimrite: I pointed out to Chub Feeney (then the teams general manager) that he had guys like Willie Mays and Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson holed up in some little hotel while the rest of the players, people who might never even wear a major-league uniform, were staying at the famous Palace. Chub just looked at me and said, Sam, youre right. He got on the phone to (owner) Horace Stoneham, and that was the end of that.

A Legend is Born

After twenty years in the business Lacy began to be recognized as one of the best sports journalists in the profession. He received numerous offers to move on to bigger and more widely read publicationsSports Illustrated came calling as early as 1950but he stayed at the Afro-American. He told Bill Kirtz of The Quill why he stayed put in Baltimore: No other paper in the country would have given me the kind of license. Ive made my own decisions. I cover everything that want to. I sacrificed a few dollars, true, but I lived a comfortable life. I get paid enough to be satisfied. I dont expect to die rich. Lacy continued to work nearly until his death at the age of 99, always striving to achieve a greater sense of fairness in the sporting world. He fought the major networks for their refusal to hire black broadcasters; he chastised major corporations for their failure to sponsor more black golfers; he fought for the inclusion of players from the old Negro Leagues into baseballs Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; and he took the National Football League to task for hesitating to hire black head coaches. In addition to his crusading, Lacy helped edit the paper and covered six different Olympic Games and some of the biggest prizefights of the twentieth century.

In 1997, the fiftieth anniversary of Robinsons integration of Major League Baseball, suddenly everyone wanted to speak to Sam Lacy. He was given an honorary doctorate at Loyola University, was honored by the Smithsonian Institute with a lecture series, and then the following year won the Associated Presss Red Smith Award and the baseball Hall of Fames J.G. Taylor Spink Award for sports writing. In 1998 Lacy achieved the ultimate reward for a baseball writer. He was inducted into the writers wing of baseballs shrine. Though Lacy was awestruck that he was even considered for induction into the Hall of Fame, others recognized the important role he played in the history of baseball and racial desegregation in the United States. Jackie Robinsons widow, Rachel, told Cummings of The New York Daily News about Lacys contribution: We had a great deal of respect for Sam and the other black journalists. They were really crusaders. They really paved the way for the integration of baseball because they were so persistent in their criticism of the owners. They never gave up and I dont think their efforts have ever been properly recognized or appreciated for the role they played behind the scenes. Upon his death on May 8, 2003, broadcasting great Bob Wolff told Editor & Publisher that Lacy was a monument in the business.

Selected writings

(With Moses J. Newson) Fighting for Fairness: The Life Story of Hall of Fame Sportswriter Sam Lacy, Tidewater Publishers, 1998.

Sources

Periodicals

Editor & Publisher, May 19, 2003, p. 34.

New York Daily News, February 7, 1997.

Philadelphia Daily News, April 9, 1997.

Quill, January-February, 1999.

Sporting News, May 26, 2003, p. 60.

Sports Illustrated, October 29, 1990.

Washington Post, June 11, 1997.

Michael J. Watkins and Tom Pendergast

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Lacy, Sam 1903–

Sam Lacy 1903

Sports writer, editor

At a Glance

An Early Advocate

A Legend is Born

Sources

Sam Lacy became a pioneering sports writer for the Afro-American newspaper in Baltimore and was one of the most important early forces in the integration of Major League Baseball. The sports writer inherited his pioneering spirit from his grandfather Henry Erskine Lacy who was the first black detective on the Washington, D.C. police force. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Lacys story is not that he covered all the giants of the twentieth century sporting world Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammed Ali to name a few but that he continued to cover sports well into his nineties. He left home for the office at the Afro-American at 3:00 a.m. to do three weekly columns and supervise the layout of the paper. When he became too old to drive after suffering a stroke in 1999, his son brought him to work. When his fingers became too riddled with arthritis to type, he wrote out his column longhand. Lacys story began with his selling peanuts to the Jim Crow section of old Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C, and it continued until he reached a place of honor in the writers wing at baseballs ultimate shrine, the Hall of Fame in Cooper-stown, New York.

Samuel Harold Lacy was born on October 23, 1903 in Mystic, Connecticut to Samuel Erskine Lacy, a researcher in a Washington, D.C. law firm, and Rose Lacy, a full-blooded Native American from the Shinnecock tribe. Lacys family moved to Washington, D.,C, early in his life. Lacys father taught his son to love baseball, and Sam began hanging around the stadium. The young fan would do errands for the players such as buying cigarettes and picking up their laundry. By the time Lacy was nine years old, he was shagging balls in the outfield before games at batting practice. Lacy got a job at the stadium selling popcorn and peanuts in the stands. He also caddied for the winning golfer at the 1921 U.S. Open. His time carrying the bag of Englishman Long Jim Barnes earned him $200. His tip was so enormous that the young man had a difficult time making his mother believe he had earned the princely sum by carrying around a golf bag for four days. Lacy attended Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C. and played football, baseball, and basketball. After he graduated from high school, he was good enough to play baseball in the local semi-pro leagues but decided he needed to further his education. He attended Howard University and earned a degree in education with the intention of becoming a coach. Little did he know that his part-time job would turn out to be his career and his crusade.

At a Glance

Born Samuel Harold Lacy on October 23,1903, in Mystic, CN to Samuel Erskine Lacy (a law researcher) and Rose Lacy; married: Barbara Lacy (widowed in 1969). Education: B.A., Howard University.

Career: Sports writer and editor at the Washington Tribune, 1930-40; the Chicago Defender, 1940-43; and at the Baltimore Afro-American, 1943-; covered Jackie Robinsons entry into Major League Baseball for three straight years, 1945-48; published autobiography called Fighting For Fairness, 1997.

Awards: First African American member of the Baseball Writers of America, 1948; first black journalist enshrined in the Maryland Media Hall of Fame, 1984; elected to the Black Athletes Hall of Fame, 1985; received the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame, 1997; received the Associated Press Red Smith Award, 1998; enshrined in the writers wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, 1998.

Addresses: Home Washington, D.C. Office Baltimore Afro-American, 2519 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MA 21218.

An Early Advocate

Lacy worked part-time at the local African-American paper, the Washington Tribune, while he was in school in the late 1920s earning a nickel for every inch of copy he wrote. After graduation he joined the paper full-time and soon moved into the sports department where he began a life-long crusade for fairness in the world of sports. The first big story Lacy wrote involved a black football player at Syracuse University. To allow the player to continue on the team, the university claimed that he was not black but a Hindu with Indian ancestry. Lacy wrote a story in 1937 proving that the player was not Indian, but born in Washington, D.C. to African-American parents. When the University of Maryland found out about the black player, it refused to play the game with Syracuse unless Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was removed from the team. The player was taken off the team and Syracuse lost, but the reaction against both universities was so strong that Sidat-Singh played against Maryland the following year.

Lacy then turned his attention to the game of baseball. He met with Clark Griffith, the owner of the Washington Senators, then the local major-league team that eventually became the Minnesota Twins. Lacy suggested that Griffiths last-place team could be turned around by an infusion of new talent from the Negro Leagues: Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, and Josh Gibson were suggested to the owner. Lacy told Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News about his first meeting with a major-league owner: I used that old cliche about Washington being first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League, and that he could remedy that. But he told me that the climate wasnt right. He pointed out there were a lot of Southern ballplayers in the league, that there would be constant confrontations, and, moreover, that it would break up the Negro Leagues. He saw the Negro Leagues as a source of revenue.

But a cause was born. Lacy became one of the earliest and most outspoken voices for desegregation in baseball. In 1940 Lacy moved to Chicago to join the Chicago Defender, a black paper with a national readership. On numerous occasions he sought a meeting with baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to talk about the integration of Major League Baseball, but Lacy never received a reply. After three years of wrangling and agitating, Lacy finally was given a place on the agenda at the 1943 baseball meetings in Cleveland to discuss the issue. At the last minute the paper decided to send noted athlete and actor Paul Robeson to make the case for the black baseball player a decision on the part of the paper that Lacy took very personally. He told D.L. Cummings of The New York Daily News about his reaction to the snub: That made me furious. All this work I had done on this, for them to send Paul Robeson, who had known Communistic leanings, I questioned the good sense of it all. I knew when the owners saw this guy who admitted to being Communist-oriented, they would simply say, OK, we heard you and dont call us, well call you.

Lacy immediately moved to the Afro-American in Baltimore and continued to press the race issue. He wrote to the owners and suggested an integration committee be formed. Lacy was named to just such a committee with Branch Rickey of the National Leagues Brooklyn Dodgers and Larry MacPhail of the New York Yankees. The group tried to meet, but MacPhail never attended any of the meetings, so Rickey told Lacy that he was going to be integrating baseball on his own. In April of 1945 Major League Baseball got a new commissioner who was not opposed to integration, and six months later the league got its first black ball player when Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a contract for Brooklyns Triple A team in Montreal.

The Afro-American allowed Lacy to cover Robinson exclusively for the next three years. The black press was unanimous in its support of Robinson, and all agreed he was the man to take the first giant step in integrating Major League Baseball. Robinson had attended UCLA, a racially mixed college, competed against white players, had served with honor in the military, and was engaged to be married. Lacy traveled with Robinson from Montreal, where Robinson played Triple A ball, to the deep South for spring training and even to Cuba for winter baseball. Lacy witnessed all the trials that Robinson experienced and told Kevin Merida of The Washington Post that it was difficult for Robinson to keep all of his pain and frustration to himself: There were a lot of things that were bothering him. He was taking so much abuse that he said to me that he didnt know whether or not he was going to be able to go through with this because it was just becoming so intolerable, that they were throwing everything at him.

Lacy endured many indignities that Robinson experienced eating with him in separate facilities and staying at the same segregated rooming houses. Once they woke up in the middle of the night to find a cross burning in front of the rooming house where Robinson and other black journalists were staying. Lacy faced discrimination in the press box also. Lacy had to report on some Dodger games from the dugout because he was not allowed to sit with the other reporters. In New Orleans he was forced to go up on the roof of the press box, but there he was joined by some white writers from New York. As late as 1952 Lacy was denied entry into Yankee Stadium to cover the World Series, though he had been a member of the Baseball Writers of America since 1948 that organizations first African-American member. But Lacy never dramatized his own situation; he kept the focus on the athletes. Again he told Merida of The Washington Post: It would have been a selfish thing for me to be concerned about myself and how I was treated.

After his victory in desegregating Major League Baseball, Lacy continued to press for fairness in sport. He saw that black ballplayers were having a major impact on their teams records and also on their teams bottom lines. He campaigned to increase their salaries and to have the separate but equal accommodations eliminated. Lacy first brought up the issue of blacks and whites staying in different hotels with the old New York Giants before the team moved to San Francisco. He told the story to Sports Illustrated s Ron Fimrite: I pointed out to Chub Feeney (then the teams general manager) that he had guys like Willie Mays and Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson holed up in some little hotel while the rest of the players, people who might never even wear a major-league uniform, were staying at the famous Palace. Chub just looked at me and said, Sam, youre right. He got on the phone to (owner) Horace Stoneham, and that was the end of that.

A Legend is Born

After twenty years in the business Lacy began to be recognized as one of the best sports journalists in the profession. He received numerous offers to move on to

bigger and more widely read publications Sports Illustrated came calling as early as 1950 but he stayed at the Afro-American. He told Bill Kirtz of The Quill why he stayed put in Baltimore: No other paper in the country would have given me the kind of license Ive made my own decisions. I cover everything that want to I sacrificed a few dollars, true, but I lived a comfortable life. I get paid enough to be satisfied. I dont expect to die rich. Lacy continued to work well into his nineties, always striving to achieve a greater sense of fairness in the sporting world. He fought the major networks for their refusal to hire black broadcasters; he chastised major corporations for their failure to sponsor more black golfers; he fought for the inclusion of players from the old Negro Leagues into baseballs Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; and he took the National Football League to task for hesitating to hire black head coaches. In addition to his crusading, Lacy helped edit the paper and covered six different Olympic Games and some of the biggest prizefights of the twentieth century.

In 1997, the fiftieth anniversary of Robinsons integration of Major League Baseball, suddenly everyone wanted to speak to Sam Lacy. He was given an honorary doctorate at Loyola University, was honored by the Smithsonian Institute with a lecture series, and then the following year won the Associated Presss Red Smith Award and the baseball Hall of Fames J.G. Taylor Spink Award for sports writing. In 1998 Lacy achieved the ultimate reward for a baseball writer. He was inducted into the writers wing of baseballs shrine. Though Lacy was awestruck that he was even considered for induction into the Hall of Fame, others recognized the important role he played in the history of baseball and racial desegregation in the United States. Jackie Robinsons widow Rachel told Cummings of The New York Daily News about Lacys contribution: We had a great deal of respect for Sam and the other black journalists. They were really crusaders. They really paved the way for the integration of baseball because they were so persistent in their criticism of the owners. They never gave up and I dont think their efforts have ever been properly recognized or appreciated for the role they played behind the scenes.

Sources

The New York Daily News, February 7, 1997.

The Philadelphia Daily News, April 9, 1997.

The Quill, January-February, 1999.

Sports Illustrated, October 29, 1990.

The Washington Post, June 11, 1997.

Michael J. Watkins

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Lacy, Sam

Sam Lacy

Sam Lacy (1903–2003) became a pioneering sports-writer for the Afro-American newspaper in Baltimore and was one of the most important early forces in the integration of Major League Baseball.

The sportswriter inherited his pioneering spirit from his grandfather, Henry Erskine Lacy, who was the first black detective on the Washington, D.C., police force. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Lacy's story is not that he covered all the giants of the twentieth-century sporting world—Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammed Ali, to name a few—but that he continued to cover sports well into his nineties. He left home for the office at the Afro-American at three o'clock in the morning. to do three weekly columns and supervise the layout of the paper. When he became too old to drive after suffering a stroke in 1999, his son brought him to work. When his fingers became too riddled with arthritis to type, he wrote out his column longhand, continuing until shortly before his death in May, 2003. Lacy's story began with his selling peanuts to the Jim Crow section of old Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., and it continued until he reached a place of honor in the writers' wing at baseball's ultimate shrine, the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Lacy was born on October 23, 1903, in Mystic, Connecticut, to Samuel Erskine Lacy, a researcher in a Washington, D.C. law firm, and Rose Lacy, a full-blooded Native American from the Shinnecock tribe. Lacy's family moved to Washington, D.C., early in his life. Lacy's father taught his son to love baseball, and Lacy began to hang around the stadium. The young fan would do errands for the players such as buying cigarettes and picking up their laundry. By the time Lacy was nine years old, he was shagging balls in the outfield before games at batting practice and eventually worked at the stadium selling popcorn and peanuts in the stands. He also caddied for Englishman "Long Jim" Barnes, the winning golfer at the 1921 U.S. Open, which earned Lacy the sum of $200. His tip was so enormous that the young man had a difficult time making his mother believe he had earned the princely sum by carrying around a golf bag for four days.

Advocated for Desegregation in Sports

Lacy attended Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C. and played football, baseball and basketball. After he graduated from high school, he was good enough to play baseball in the local semipro leagues but decided he needed to further his education. He attended Howard University and earned a degree in education with the intention of becoming a coach. Little did he know that his part-time job would turn out to be his career and his crusade.

While attending school in the 1920s Lacy worked part-time at the local African-American paper, the Washington Tribune, earning a nickel for every inch of copy he wrote. After graduation he joined the paper full-time and soon moved into the sports department, where he began a lifelong crusade for fairness in the world of sports. The first big story Lacy wrote involved a black football player at Syracuse University; to allow the player to continue on the team, the university claimed that he was not black but a Hindu with Indian ancestry. Lacy wrote a story in 1937 proving that the player was not Indian, but born in Washington, D.C., to African-American parents. When the University of Maryland found out about the black player, it refused to play the game with Syracuse unless Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was removed from the team. The player was taken off the team and Syracuse lost, but the reaction against both universities was so strong that Sidat-Singh played against Maryland the following year.

Lacy then turned his attention to the game of baseball. He met with Clark Griffith, the owner of the Washington Senators, then the local major-league team that eventually became the Minnesota Twins. Lacy suggested that Griffith's last-place team could be turned around by an infusion of new talent from the Negro Leagues: Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, and Josh Gibson were suggested to the owner. Lacy told Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News about his first meeting with a major-league owner: "I used that old cliché about Washington being first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League, and that he could remedy that. But he told me that the climate wasn't right. He pointed out there were a lot of Southern ballplayers in the league, that there would be constant confrontations, and, moreover, that it would break up the Negro Leagues. He saw the Negro Leagues as a source of revenue."

But a cause was born: Lacy became one of the earliest and most outspoken voices for desegregation in baseball. In 1940 Lacy moved to Chicago to join the Chicago Defender, a black paper with a national readership. On numerous occasions he sought a meeting with baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to talk about the integration of Major League Baseball, but Lacy never received a reply. After three years of wrangling and agitating, Lacy finally was given a place on the agenda at the 1943 baseball meetings in Cleveland to discuss the issue. At the last minute the paper decided to send noted athlete and actor Paul Robeson to make the case for the black baseball player, a decision on the part of the paper that Lacy took very personally. He told D.L. Cummings of The New York Daily News about his reaction to the snub: "That made me furious. All this work I had done on this, for them to send Paul Robeson, who had known Communistic leanings, I questioned the good sense of it all. I knew when the owners saw this guy who admitted to being Communist-oriented, they would simply say, 'OK, we heard you and don't call us, we'll call you.'"

Lacy immediately moved to the Afro-American in Baltimore and continued to press the race issue. He wrote to the owners and suggested an integration committee be formed. Lacy was named to just such a committee with Branch Rickey of the National League's Brooklyn Dodgers and Larry MacPhail of the New York Yankees. The group tried to meet, but MacPhail never attended any of the meetings, so Rickey told Lacy that he was going to be integrating baseball on his own. In April of 1945 Major League Baseball got a new commissioner who was not opposed to integration, and six months later the league got its first black ball player when Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a contract for Brooklyn's Triple A team in Montreal.

Covered a Pioneer

The Afro-American allowed Lacy to cover Robinson exclusively for the next three years. The black press was unanimously in support of Robinson, and all agreed he was the man to take the first giant step in integrating Major League Baseball. Robinson had attended UCLA, a racially mixed college, competed against white players, had served with honor in the military, and was engaged to be married. Lacy traveled with Robinson from Montreal, where Robinson played Triple A ball, to the deep south for spring training, and even to Cuba for winter baseball. Lacy witnessed all the trials that Robinson experienced and told Kevin Merida of the Washington Post that it was difficult for Robinson to keep all of his pain and frustration to himself: "There were a lot of things that were bothering him. He was taking so much abuse that he said to me that he didn't know whether or not he was going to be able to go through with this because it was just becoming so intolerable, that they were throwing everything at him."

Lacy endured many of the same indignities as Robinson, eating with him in separate facilities and staying at the same segregated rooming houses. Once they woke up in the middle of the night to find a cross burning in front of the rooming house where Robinson and other black journalists were staying. Lacy faced discrimination in the press box also. Lacy had to report on some Dodger games from the dugout because he was not allowed to sit with the other reporters. In New Orleans he was forced to go up on the roof of the press box, but there he was joined by some white writers from New York. As late as 1952 Lacy was denied entry into Yankee Stadium to cover the World Series, though he had been a member of the Baseball Writers of America since 1948 as the organization's first African-American member. But Lacy never dramatized his own situation; he kept the focus on the athletes. He told Merida, "It would have been a selfish thing for me to be concerned about myself and how I was treated."

After his victory in desegregating Major League Baseball, Lacy continued to press for fairness in sports. He saw that black ballplayers were having a major impact on their team's records and also on their team's bottom lines. He campaigned to increase their salaries and to have the "separate but equal" accommodations eliminated. Lacy first brought up the issue of blacks and whites staying in different hotels with the New York Giants (before the team moved to San Francisco). He told the story to Sports Illustrated's Ron Fimrite: "I pointed out to Chub Feeney (then the team's general manager) that he had guys like Willie Mays and Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson holed up in some little hotel while the rest of the players, people who might never even wear a major-league uniform, were staying at the famous Palace. Chub just looked at me and said, 'Sam, you're right.' He got on the phone to (owner) Horace Stoneham, and that was the end of that."

A Legend was Born

After twenty years in the business Lacy earned recognition as one of the best sports journalists in the profession. He received numerous offers to move on to bigger and more widely read publications—Sports Illustrated came calling as early as 1950—but he stayed at the Afro-American. He told Bill Kirtz of The Quill why he stayed put in Baltimore: "No other paper in the country would have given me the kind of license. I've made my own decisions. I cover everything that want to. I sacrificed a few dollars, true, but I lived a comfortable life. I get paid enough to be satisfied. I don't expect to die rich." Lacy continued to work nearly until his death at the age of 99, always striving to achieve a greater sense of fairness in the sporting world. He fought the major networks for their refusal to hire black broadcasters; he chastised major corporations for their failure to sponsor more black golfers; he fought for the inclusion of players from the old Negro Leagues into baseball's Hall of Fame in Coopers-town; and he took the National Football League to task for hesitating to hire black head coaches. In addition to his crusading, Lacy helped edit the paper and covered six different Olympic Games and some of the biggest prizefights of the twentieth century.

In 1997, on the fiftieth anniversary of Robinson's integration of Major League Baseball, everyone suddenly wanted to speak to Lacy. He was given an honorary doctorate at Loyola University, was honored by the Smithsonian Institute with a lecture series, and then the following year won the Associated Press's Red Smith Award and the Baseball Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for sports writing. In 1998 Lacy achieved the ultimate reward for a baseball writer. He was inducted into the writers' wing of baseball's shrine. Though Lacy was awestruck that he was even considered for induction into the Hall of Fame, others recognized the important role he played in the history of baseball and racial desegregation in the United States. Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel, told Cummings of The New York Daily News about Lacy's contribution: "We had a great deal of respect for Sam and the other black journalists. They were really crusaders. They really paved the way for the integration of baseball because they were so persistent in their criticism of the owners. They never gave up and I don't think their efforts have ever been properly recognized or appreciated for the role they played behind the scenes." Upon his death on May 8, 2003, broadcasting great Bob Wolff told Editor & Publisher that Lacy was "a monument in the business."

Periodicals

Editor & Publisher, May 19, 2003.

New York Daily News, February 7, 1997.

Philadelphia Daily News, April 9, 1997.

Quill, January-February, 1999.

Sporting News May 26, 2003.

Sports Illustrated, October 29, 1990.

Washington Post, June 11, 1997.

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Lacy, Sam

Sam Lacy
1903–2003

Sportswriter, journalist, editor

Perhaps it was prophetic that Sam Harold Lacy was born in October 1903, the month and year of the first World Series. For over sixty years, he used his pen and his persistence as a sports journalist to become a crusader for the integration of major league baseball and other sports.

Samuel Lacy was born in Mystic, Connecticut on October 23, 1903. His father, Samuel Erskine Lacy, and his mother, Rose Lacy, moved the family to Washington, D.C., when he was two years old. Perhaps his interest in newspapers began when, at age eight, he began working for two dollars a week as a printer's helper. It was there that he learned to set type and run a rotary press. As a youth, he also shined shoes, set up pins in a bowling alley, sold newspapers, waited tables, and lugged heavy golf bags at a country club. Living near Griffith baseball stadium, Lacy took advantage of the opportunity to meet professional players by fielding batting practice balls for the Washington Nationals. In addition, he earned cash selling merchandise at the ballpark. The youngster attended Garnet Elementary School, and, for a short time, he attended Dunbar High School. At Dunbar, several future prominent African Americans were his classmates, including Charles Drew, William Hastie, Allison Davis, and W. Montague Cobb. A budding rebel, Lacy eschewed the middle-class intellectuals of Dunbar and transferred to Armstrong Technical High School which his sports-playing friends from the local YMCA attended. There he played basketball, football, and in multiple roles as star pitcher, third baseman, and captain, he helped the baseball team win three straight city championships from 1922 to 1924. Lacy dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. During the 1920s, while still in high school, he pitched for a couple of black sandlot teams in the District of Columbia, the Buffalo A.C. and the LeDroit Tigers. Although in his autobiography, written when he was ninety-five, Lacy claimed that he played with the semi-pro Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, a black professional team, there is no supporting documentation for that claim.

After graduating from high school in 1924, he coached men's and women's basketball teams, refereed games, and promoted and announced sporting events. Again rejecting an icon of black middle class, he left Howard University in 1926 after one year. Subsequently, the young man made several irresponsible decisions. Lacy's obsession with betting on racehorses led to money problems. His illicit efforts to earn quick money by writing bad checks resulted in close encounters with the police; however, he managed to correct his mistakes before he became a convict instead of a reporter.

Chronology

1903
Born in Mystic, Connecticut on October 23
1920s
Works as sportswriter at the Washington Tribune
1934–37
Serves as managing editor and sports editor of the Washington Tribune
1940–42
Works as assistant national editor for the Chicago Defender
1943
Becomes columnist and sports editor for the Afro-American
1945
Begins travel to report first-hand on the Jackie Robinson experience
1948
Accepted as first African American member of the Baseball Writers Association of America
1997
Wins the J. G. Taylor Spink Award
1998
Becomes first Baseball Hall of Fame sportswriter inductee who spent entire career with a black newspaper
2003
Dies in Washington, D.C. on May 8

Even as a teenager while he pursued a baseball career, Lacy had another occupation. When he was a sophomore in high school, he began writing sports for the Washington Tribune. The Tribune hired Lacy as a full time journalist in 1926. His assignment was to cover high school and amateur sports. Within two months, the newspaper promoted the young man to sports editor. He married Alberta Robinson in 1927 and their son, Samuel Howe (Tim) Lacy, was born in 1938. However, tempted again by baseball, Lacy left the Tribune in 1929 to play in Connecticut. After finally accepting the reality that a profes-sional baseball career was not in his future, he returned to reporting full-time for the Washington Tribune. From 1934 to 1937, Lacy was both managing editor and sports editor of the paper.

Begins Crusade to Integrate Major League Baseball

The mid-1930s was a time when the NAACP was soliciting for anti-lynching legislation. Black newspapers took advantage of their influence to fight segregation. A product of his times, Lacy used his column to highlight racial disparities in sporting facilities and opportunities. Lacy began campaigning against policies that banned black players from major league teams. From 1937 to 1939, he was sports editor for the Washington Afro-American. In October 1937, Lacy exposed a Syracuse University scheme to pass off their black star player, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, as a Hindu so that he could play in a game with the University of Maryland. As a result, Syracuse yielded to Maryland's refusal to participate if a black played in the game. The controversial story produced criticism of Lacy, even from African Americans. Nevertheless, he stood behind his story. Lacy thought that it was a reporter's responsibility to be honest, and he believed racial progress required candor. Soon after the Sidat-Singh episode, Lacy met with Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington Senators, to discuss the hiring of African American players. Griffith's refusal to cooperate apparently fueled Lacy's resolve to integrate baseball. In a column "Pro and Con on The Negro in Organized Baseball," Lacy printed the diverse opinions of white sports-writers as well as letters of support from black Washingtonians. In 1940, Lacy left Washington to work as assistant national editor for another black newspaper, the Chicago Defender. There he began a letter-writing campaign to the major league owners.

Lacy returned to Baltimore in 1943 to work as a columnist and sports editor for the weekly Afro-American newspapers, a position he held for almost sixty years. Still committed to the cause, he continued to write on the subject of integrating baseball in his column. He also urged baseball owners to set up a committee to discuss integration. The full membership of Major League Committee on Baseball Integration never met, but member Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, broke the color barrier when he signed a black player, Jackie Robinson, in August 1945.

Travels with Jackie Robinson

Aware of the historical implication of Jackie Robinson's signing, Carl Murphy, publisher of the Afro-American, assigned Lacy to follow Robinson and cover the story. Lacy began to travel in order to give detailed reports on the treatment of Robinson and other black players and on the progress of the integration of baseball. As a result, he was exposed to indignities similar to those endured by many other blacks. For example, Lacy was not allowed to sit in the press boxes of ballparks in Texas. As a compromise, the president of the National League gave permission for Lacy to set in the dugout. On one occasion, according to Lacy, he and Jackie Robinson were not admitted into a stadium in Florida. In order for Robinson to play that day and for Lacy to do his job, they had to get in through a loose plank in the stadium fence. Asking for directions to the colored rest-room in a Florida stadium, the usher directed him to a tree about thirty-five yards away from the right field fowl line. Another time, when Lacy was refused admission to a press box, he decided to view the game from the roof. Several sympathetic white peers joined him on his perch declaring as a joke that they wanted to get a tan. Ironically, in order to segregate Lacy from the other reporters, park authorities placed him in a separate field box, which resulted in a better seat for him than for many of the white fans. Lacy viewed his race-based encounters as representative of the humiliations suffered by many other blacks in countless other jobs. Like others, he did not let the innumerable confrontations interfere with the tasks he set out to accomplish.

Though remembered mainly for his battle to eliminate obstacles faced by black, major league baseball players, Lacy also reported about the achievements of African Americans in other sports. While he felt obliged to confront the individuals and institutions that resisted extending equal opportunities to players, his professional honesty also required him to query athletes about personal and sensitive issues.

Receives Recognition for Work

Hard work, sports, and writing were constant factors throughout his life. Although his goal was to be a star professional player, rather than reporting the feats of other athletes, Lacy won acclaim and shaped society through his writing. During his lifetime, he received numerous awards and tributes. Sports Illustrated presented Lacy with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism in 1989 and the National Association of Black Journalists presented him with a similar honor in 1991. He was inducted into the Society of Professional Journalists Hall of Fame in 1994 and honored at the All Sports Hall of Fame dinner in New York City in 1998. In 1948, Lacy was the first African American admitted to membership in the Baseball Writers Association. In 1997, he won the J. G. Taylor Spink Award, the highest award given by the Baseball Writers Association to its members. According to Lacy, the most important award was induction into the writers' wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. He was only the second African American to receive the honor and the first Baseball Hall of Fame sportswriter inductee who spent his entire career with a black newspaper.

Following his divorce from his first wife in 1952, Lacy married Barbara Robinson in 1953. She often traveled with him and her fair complexion sometimes led to embarrassing incidents when they were mistaken as an interracial couple. Lacy credited Barbara with teaching him responsibility. He remained a widower after her death in 1969.

Lacy died on May 8, 2003, in Washington, D.C., at age 99. The Baseball Hall of Fame notes, "it was as a crusader in the 1930s and 1940s, when Lacy's columns were devoted to desegregating baseball in the major leagues, that he made his greatest impact as a journalist." Lacy's pen and typewriter were truly mightier than a sword.

REFERENCES

Books

Nathan, Daniel A. "Sam Lacy." In African American Lives. Eds. Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbothan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Snyder, Brad. Beyond the Shadow of the Senators: The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.

Online

National Baseball Hall of Fame. "1997 J.G. Taylor Spink Award Winner Sam Lacy." http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers%5Fand%5Fhonorees/spink%5Fbios/lacy_sam.htm (Accessed 6 February 2006).

                                   Cheryl Jones Hamberg

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