Tuesday, June 7, 2005

james atkins - part five

Q: What did you do after you quit?

A: I went into the insurance business with Metropolitan. I did that for twenty years.

Q: Was that satisfying? Did you ever miss baseball?

A: Well, in 1958 I went down to Bessemer and pitched down there. I think the old boy gave me a $500 bonus to play amateur ball. And then they gave me $25 a game.

Q: Is this just a couple of days a week?

A: Just Sundays. When I quit down there, well then I was commissioner of Pony Leagues and fooled with Little Leagues and that kind of stuff. I spent all my time then, the next eight or ten years, fooling with Little Leagues and Pony Leagues.

But one Sunday I went down to Bessemer and we were playing Pleasant Grove, I believe it was. Had a bunch of young fellows on it. Pretty good ballplayers. And I pitched a doubleheader and both games got beat 20 something to 2 or 3. Well, it was getting towards the end of the year and we were going to the playoffs. We were going to play them for the championship. And they were yelling, Oh you old has-been, and this and that. And I said, Okay now. We’ll play this game according to old Jim. Went down on Sunday and beat them 5-1. We were tied 1-1 in the ninth inning and I hit a grand slam home run. I worked in the insurance business with one or two of the fellows and they never had anything to say about it anymore. I told them, We’re going to play this game according to old Jim. And I’d have them bent over and I’d knock them back and then I’d pitch it outside.

Q: Now were you superstitious at all when you were a ballplayer?

A: I think everybody is some. I wouldn’t say a lot.

Q: Did you have a good luck charm?

A: No, I think what I thought about just about every day was putting my left shoe on first. And even now I put my left shoe on first. It’s like in the winter time, when I’d come back and work for Reynolds Aluminum, and those old boys down there, they used to say, You can tell Mister Jim’s a Marine. He always leads off with the left foot.

Q: The Red Sox didn’t integrate until 1957 so you played on an all-white ballclub. Boston was the last team in the Majors to integrate.

A: It seems to me like that Piper Davis – a black fellow that worked out at Acipco and played ball out at Acipco when I was a kid – it seems to me like Piper Davis was signed by the Red Sox in the early fifties.

Q: That’s right, but they didn’t bring him up to the Majors. But how does Piper Davis come to play ball for Acipco?

A: Well, there was a black team and a white team. They had the black industrial league and the white industrial league.

Q: Was the Piper Davis team as good as the white industrial team?

A: Oh yeah. They had Artie Wilson, Piper and Sam Hairston.

Q: Did you ever go see the Black Barons play out at Rickwood?

A: Oh yeah. I liked to go because they had some showmanship to it. I went to go see the New Orleans team play when I was in New Orleans more than I went here in Birmingham. I used to like to go see the teams play, even at Acipco. They had their own ballfield, and when we went out there they had a white section and you’d go down there and sit in that white section, and really enjoy it.

Q: Do you have any regrets about your baseball career?

A: No. I had a no-hitter in the Coast League, pitched a doubleheader in the Texas League and had 10 2/3 innings of hitless relief at Birmingham in 1957 and led the American Association in wins in 1951 and had a .400 batting average in the big leagues. Somebody wanted an autograph and they were putting all about my pitching there – won none and lost one – and I wrote on the card, Why didn’t you say something about my .400 batting average?

Q: Do you watch much baseball on television now?

A: There are certain pitchers that I want to see pitch.

Q: Who do you like to watch?

A: Maddux, but the game is so dadburned slow. Now then, I pitched that doubleheader in the Texas League. The game started at 6:30 and at 9:41 those people were going out of the ballpark. I think one of them was an hour and a half and one of them was an hour and 29 minutes.

Q: Who else do you like to watch besides Maddux?

A: Johnson, and that big boy for the Yankees, Clemens. There are several of them that I like to see, but that’s about all I watch it for. I used to go out and see the Birmingham team play but I’d get so dadburn critical. I would go out there and the first game I watched the outfielders threw behind the runners three times and you know, just all that kind of stuff, and I just get so critical that I just can’t enjoy it.

Q: Do you talk to the television when you watch it?

A: No. I have my hopes for something to happen but I don’t talk to it. The only ones I holler at are my boys.


james atkins - part one
james atkins - part two
james atkins - part three
james atkins - part four

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