Thursday, May 12, 2011

Grays, Crawfords Face Each Other Again

The Homestead Grays Bridge - aka, the Homestead Hi-Level - got its namesakes dedicated today.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, Allegheny County, The Josh Gibson Foundation and Homestead Mayor Betty Esper (who spearheaded the renaming of the bridge in 2002 and took the lead in getting today's signs up) dedicated 18 new plaques attached to poles lining the Mon span.

The unveiling took place at 10 a.m. when Esper and Dan Onorato, county exec, were hoisted by cherry-picker to the first sign. They tugged on the tarp, yanked it off, and re-introduced Josh Gibson, maybe the best catcher to ever strap on the gear and who fittingly played for both ball clubs.

Others recognized are:

Cumberland Posey was the Homestead Grays team owner, manager and player.
Sellers Hall played for the Homestead Grays between 1917-20.
Vic Harris spent 23 years with the Grays as a player and manager.
Ray Brown was a maintay on the mound for the Grays.
Buck Leonard was a slick fielding and smooth hitting first-baseman for Homestead.
Clarence Bruce was the Grays' second baseman during its 1948 Negro League World Series championship season.
Smokey Joe Williams, also known as "The Cyclone," pitched for the Homestead Grays, and in 1999 he became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Pittsburgh Crawfords owner Gus Greenlee and helped form the New Negro League.
Oscar Charleston was one of the top Negro League OF'ers; in 1976, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ted Page of the Crawfords was known for his great speed and hitting ability.
Satchel Paige did his thing for the Pittsburgh Crawfords. In 1971, Paige became the first Negro League star inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bill Harris played the infield corners and was one of Pittsburgh's earliest stars.
Harold Tinker an outfielder of the Crawfords for ten years and discovered catcher Josh Gibson.
James "Cool Papa" Bell was a great hitter, fielder, and had the speed of a gazelle.
Judy Johnson of the Crawfords was one of the greatest fielding third basemen in the Negro Leagues. He became the first African-American coach in MLB, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975.

Each team is also represented by its logo.

The metal signs are in the shape of an elongated home plate, designed by local sports artist Dino Guarino, and made by the Allegheny County Sign Shop. Motorists will see the Grays' plaques as they drive into Homestead, and the Crawfords' as they drive into Pittsburgh.

In fact, the Grays' old home field is a straight shot off the bridge; cross the light and keep going up West Street; West Field is on the right. That humble field is where the best ballplayers in the world used to ply their craft.

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