Black diamonds shine brightly - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Black diamonds shine brightly

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CHATTANOOGA - Saturday night, the Chattanooga Lookouts will hold their inaugural Negro League Baseball Night at AT & T Field.

Two former stars from baseball's segregated days will be honored, Clifford Layton of the Indianapolis Clowns and Carl Long of the Birmingham Black Barons.
Channel 3 had the wonderful opportunity to speak to both men prior to their interview Friday on Chattanooga's 105.1FM, The Zone.

"And everything else is history," concludes Clifford Layton on his story of trailblazing baseball legend Jackie Robinson. 

What's history to former Negro League baseball players like Layton and Carl Ford is little known to all too many, which is why when either gets into storytelling mode like they did at Chattanooga's ESPN radio studios Friday, it's literal magic.

"When Satchel Paige first saw me," recalls Long, he said "Hey young fellow, heard about you, you come up here and take your three and go sit down," amid laughs from show hosts David Paschall and Jay Greeson.

Long and Layton are to be honored Saturday by the Chattanooga Lookouts in the team's inaugural Negro League Baseball Night.  Both men played in the segregated league after Jackie Robinson broke major league baseball's color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But Long remembers the racism that lingered, recalling a try-out offer in 1949 as a 14-year old in Kinston, North Carolina.

"He said 'come on out here' and I said I can't come out there on the field because blacks are not allowed out there on the field," says Long.

"I would have played the game for nothing, that's just how much I loved the game," beams Layton, who also pitched for the New York Black Yankees where he was a teammate of future MLB home run king "Hammerin'" Hank Aaron.  Both men played for practically nothing compared to the baseball salaries of today, yet neither hold any bitterness.  Instead, both Clifford Layton and Carl Long reflect back with pride upon their Negro League careers, both fondly remembering their playing days in Chattanooga's Engel Stadium of the early 1950's

"From the top of the mountain, Chattanooga Choo-Choo, that's what I saw, and we went and played the Chattanooga Choo-Choos", recalls Long.

Meanwhile, Layton remembers on one of Joe Engel's many in-game ticket promotions.  "If you had the winning number, they had a little scoop , that you could scoop money out of the pot, but they only had a few seconds to do it." smiles Layton.

Both say they enjoy their modern day barnstorming around the country, and they're making a bit more coin now than they did in their playing days.

Carl Long has also put his memory to paper; becoming an author with his recently released book "A Game of Faith."

Both will be on hand Saturday night for autographs, photos and Negro League memorabilia.
But maybe more importantly, hear the first hand stories of a history not often told.
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