Today in New Orleans History

November 28

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 Tulane vs. LSU
November 28, 1931

Image from the Louisiana State Library

The "Battle for the Rag" was a rivalry game played by the LSU Tigers and the Tulane Green Wave, played nearly every year since its inception in 1893, with the last of ninety-eight games being played in 2009. The winning team was awarded a satin trophy flag known as the Tiger Rag at LSU and the Victory Flag at Tulane.  The cover from the Saturday, November 28, 1931 program shows that the game was played at Tulane Stadium that year.  Tulane defeated the Tigers 34-7.  By doing so, Tulane became the only major undefeated, untied team to win the Southern Conference championship.  Under head coach Bernie Bierman, the Green Wave went on the play in the 1932 Rose Bowl, losing to the USC (University of Southern California) Trojans 21-12.

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Thanksgiving Day has fallen on November 28 in the years 2002, 1996, 1991.1985, 1974, 1968, 1963, 1957, 1946, 1929. 1918, 1912, 1907, and 1901.

Vince Vance was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame on November 28, 2010.

R. Allen Eskew submitted plans for the International Pavilion for the Louisiana World Exposition at 805 Convention Center Blvd. on November 28, 1983.

Multi-instrumentalist, composer, and arranger for the Ronnie Kole Septet, Ann-Margret, Irma Thomas, and the Tonight Show Band, life-long Harahan resident Charles (Charlie) Brent Jr., was born on November 28, 1948.  He worked with the Contours, the New Era, Wayne Cochran & the C.C. Riders, Luther Kent & Trick Bag, the Chicken Hawks, the Mambo Brothers, and many others. A talented player of the guitar and saxophone he toured with rock and soul bands throughout the country and tutored local musicians at home. A graduate of De la Salle High School, he attended Loyola University School of Music where he was instrumental in establishing the university's jazz program. Charlie died at age 58 on November 28, 2006.

Born in Gretna on June 29, 1927, Stanley Joseph Ott, S.T.D. was educated at St. Joseph's school in Gretna and following his graduation from St. Aloysius in 1944, he studied for the priesthood instead of entering the military service.  He St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington before entering Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He continued his studies in Rome at the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University.  On May 24, 1976, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and titular bishop of Nicives by Pope Paul VI. Following the death of Bishop Sullivan, Ott was named the third Bishop of Baton Rouge by Pope John Paul II on January 13, 1983, a position he held until his death at the age of 65 on November 28, 1992.

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1921November28RandonsCleaners213BourbonStreetTP.jpgNovember 28, 1921 Times-Picayune advertisement for Randon's Cleaners, 213 Bourbon Street:

Photo of the John A. Scudder steamboat,  the huge carrier which brought her largest trip into New Orleans on November 28, 1878, comprising 4,484 bales of cotton, 10,055 sacks of cotton seed, 1,069 barrels of cottonseed oil and 3,509 sacks of oil cake and hulls . Capt. A.J. Carter commanded.

Baseball's Forgotten Man
New Orleans' Own Johnny Wright
Born in New Orleans, 
November 28, 1916

On March 5, 1946, on page 9, a two paragraph Associated Press article appeared on the Times-Picyaune sports page.  It read:

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1946JohnnyWrightDodgersClubHouse.gifRobinson, Wright Have First Spring Workouts

Sanford, Fla., March 4. --  Baseball broke a precedent of long standing today when Shortstop Jackie Robinson and Pitcher John Wright, two Negro athletes, reported for spring training with the Montreal Royals, Brooklyn's farm club in the International League.

Before an uninterested gathering of seven spectators, Robinson and Wright went through the routine practice motions in a drill that failed to create as much excitement as a daily battle between the "Blues" and the "Greens" at Rickey University."

Robinson went on to earn great fame.  Wright has been mostly forgotten.  And the introduction of black players to major league baseball was anything but "routine" (the word used to describe their first practice together in the above article).

Born in New Orleans on November 28, 1916, John Richard "Johnny" Wright graduated from McDonough 35 in 1935 and pitched for the New Orleans Zulus at age 17 in 1936.  The Zulus were a local professional team which provided entertainment with high-jinks which have been compared to the Harlem Globe Trotters. In 1937 played professionally in the Negro League for the Newark Eagles, the Atlanta Black Crackers (1938), the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1938), Toledo/Indianapolis Crawfords (1939-40) and twice with the Homestead Grays (1941-43, 1945).  With the Grays, Wright pitched in the Negro Leagues World Series of 1942, '43, and '45. In 1943.  Wright had a 25-4 record before entering the Navy during World War II where he played on the the Great Lakes Naval Station and the Floyd Bennett Air Field teams.

On October 23, 1945, president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey made the announcement of Jackie Robinson's signing and on January 29, 1946 he announced the signing of Wright, making him the second officially recognized African-American to sign a contract with major league baseball as well as the first black pitcher.  Wright's contract had actually been signed on November 20, 1945, less than a month after Robinson signed.  Wright was 27 years old, Robinson was 28. 
Bill Mardo of the Cleveland Call and Post wrote from the Dodgers spring training camp in Daytona Beach, “Actually Wright stands a far better chance than Robinson to make the jump into big league baseball. The Dodgers are terribly low on good pitchers, and by gosh that Wright is one helluva moundsman."
In Florida, Robinson and Wright were allowed to stay with the white players at the team hotel -- They were instead housed with families in the African-American community. The Sanford police chief  threatened to cancel games if Robinson and Wright did not cease training activities there. In Jacksonville, the stadium was padlocked without warning on game day, by order of the city's Parks and Public Property director. Also in Jacksonville, Wright and Robinson were prohibited from playing after the Playground and Recreation Board noted that the rules barred “mixed contestants in athletic contests” at their facilities. In DeLand, a scheduled day game was called off, reportedly because of faulty electrical lighting.

Wright was on the roster on March 17, 1946, when Robinson started at shortstop for the Royals in an exhibition game against their parent club the Dodgers, the first step in breaking baseball's color barrier.  While Robinso was able to channel any adversity into a drive to achieve excellence, Wright began faltering.  In his first appearance, against Syracuse, Wright entered in relief. He gave up 4 runs and 5 hits over 3.1 innings. The next time on the mound Wright pitched in Baltimore, the southern-most city in the International League, and a hostile environment for black players. He entered in the sixth inning behind by five. He retired the side and finished the game without giving up a hit. In general, however, during his six weeks with the club, he was used sporadically and often suffered from control problems. On May 14, he was demoted to the Class-C Trois Rivieres (Quebec) Royals of the Canadian-American League.  The Dodgers immediately replaced Wright on the Montreal roster with Roy Partlow, another black pitcher.  Wright went 12-8 with Trois Rivieres, plus winning the deciding game of the championship series. At the end of the season, Wright barnstormed with Robinson's "All-Star" squad. 

Wright rejoined the Grays for 1947, making the All-Star team and winning eight games. He retired after the 1948 season, moved back home, and spent the rest of his working life at the National Gypsum Company.  "I'm sure most of his co-workers at the gypsum plant never even knew he was a ballplayer," said Walter Wright (no relation), president of the Old-Timers Club who played and followed baseball for most of his 84 years. Wilmer Fields, a teammate with the Grays, said: "John never talked much about his experience with the Dodgers. He was a happy-go-lucky person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Jackie Robinson's temperament was better suited to handle the cruelties and indignities suffered by the first black men to play in the big leagues. He wrote in his  autobiography, "Shortly after Branch Rickey had signed me for Montreal, he had signed John Wright, a black pitcher, for the farm club. Johnny was a good pitcher, but I feel he didn't have the right kind of temperament to make it with the International League in those days. He couldn't withstand the pressure of taking insult after insult without being able to retaliate. It affected his pitching that he had to keep his temper under control all the time. Later I was very sad because he didn't make the Montreal team.

Johnny Wright died in Jackson, Mississippi on May 17, 1990 at the age of 72.

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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