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New Panthers LB David Mayo Goes from Shed to NFL

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David Newton, ESPN

 
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (ESPN) — New Carolina Panthers linebacker David Mayo literally has gone from the outhouse to the penthouse.

That is, if you consider living in a shed for a year while playing at Santa Monica (California) College the outhouse and being selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft the penthouse.

Yes, a shed.

Mayo couldn’t afford a traditional apartment because the cost of living was so high in West Los Angeles. So in 2011 a woman rented him a spot in the shed behind her house — for $450 a month.

There was no electricity, plumbing or insulation. It was just four walls with a concrete floor. For furnishings, Mayo had a bed and an ottoman. He worked at a church within walking distance to help pay the bills.

“I ran an extension cord from the house out to the shed so I could power my computer, power my phone at night, and a lamp and a heater in the winter,” Mayo said on Saturday after the Panthers selected him with one of their two compensatory picks.

 

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Baseball Hall-of-Famer, Home Run Master, Hank Aaron, Dies at 86

Aaron is most renowned for breaking Babe Ruth’s homerun record in 1973 with 715 career homeruns and went on to attain 755 career homeruns. 

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Hank Aaron photocredit Twitter

Henry Louis Aaron was born Feb. 5, 1934, in Mobile, Ala.  He died on January 22, 2021, in Atlanta, Ga. His cause of death was listed as natural causes.

Aaron is most renowned for breaking Babe Ruth’s homerun record in 1973 with 715 career homeruns and went on to attain 755 career homeruns.

He was lauded for this achievement, breaking a record long held by Ruth, a beloved figure before professional baseball was integrated. Aaron received a plaque from the U.S. Postal Service for receiving more mail, 930,000 pieces than any other non-politician after breaking the homerun record.  A great deal of it was hate mail. Aaron experienced racism and segregation throughout his life.

Aaron started his career with the Negro Leagues (classified as major leagues by Major League Baseball in December 2020), Indianapolis Clowns in 1952 and spent 1954 – 1974 with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, ending his playing career with the Milwaukee Brewers from 1975 – 1976. Aaron primarily played right field.

His uniform number — 44 — was retired by the Atlanta Braves in 1977.

His baseball awards were numerous and he was inducted intro the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 on the first ballot.

His Hall of Fame plaque states: “Hit 755 Home Runs in 23-year career to become majors’ all-time homer king.  Had 20 or more for 20 consecutive years, at least 30 in 15 seasons and 40 of better eight times.  Also set records for games played (3,298), at bats (12,354), long hits (1,477), paced N.L. in batting twice an homer, runs batted in and slugging pct. Four times each.  Won most valuable player award in N.L. in 1957.”

San Francisco Giants Barry Bonds subsequently broke Aaron’s home run record in 2007 with an asterisk because of allegations of hhis steroid use.

After retiring from baseball Aaron held positions in the front office of the Atlanta Braves.  He was one of the first people of color to hold an upper management position in Major League Baseball.

He published his autobiography in 1990, “I Had a Hammer” both a play on his nickname, “Hammerin’ Hank” or “The Hammer” and a nod to the folk song, “If I Had a Hammer”.

Hip-Hop artist M.C. Hammer got his nickname because folks thought he looked like Hank Aaron.

In 2002 Aaron was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

A memorial service will be held on January 26 and streamed on AJC.com at 1pm EST.  Former President Bill Clinton and former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig are scheduled to attend the funeral.

His private funeral will be held on January 27 at Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta and burial at South-View Cemetery.

According to a statement from the Atlanta Braves he “passed away peacefully in his sleep.”

Aaron publicly received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on January 5, 2021 along with Andrew Young, 88.

On social media he said “I was proud to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier today at Morehouse School of Medicine.  I hope you do the same!”

Aaron is survived by his second wife, Billye, and by five children:  Gaile, Hank Jr., Larry, Dorinda, and Ceci.

Wikipedia, The New York Times, The Guardian, and People Magazine were sources for this report.

 

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Former Athlete Rafer Johnson, Country Musician Charley Pride, both 86

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Charley Pride. Charleypride.com photo.

Black America lost two of its iconic figures this month.

Both born in 1934, Rafer Lewis Johnson died of a stroke on December 2 in Los Angeles and Charley Frank Pride was a COVID-19 victim who succumbed on December 12 in Dallas, Texas.

Both men were athletes, Johnson an Olympic decathlete, and Pride was once a pitcher in the Negro Leagues.

Born in Texas, Johnson moved with his family to the San Joaquin Valley town of Kingsburg and became a high school sports phenomenon while picking cotton with his father and siblings.

Johnson was a silver medalist in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and a gold medalist in Rome in 1960, the same year Wilma Rudolph, Muhammed Ali, and Oscar Roberson competed.

He was the first Black captain of a U.S. Olympic team.

Johnson also played basketball under coach John Wooden for the UCLA Bruins 1958-59.

Besides his athletic accomplishments, Johnson was an actor, sportscaster, and co-founder of the California Special Olympics.

Drafted to play pro football, he did not play yet he gained renown for tackling Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968, along with football player Rosey Grier and journalist George Plimpton.

When the L.A. Olympics opened in 1984, a 48-year-old Johnson was the surprise final torchbearer who scaled the Coliseum steps to light the cauldron during the Opening Ceremony.

He would be inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2009 and receive the UCLA Medal — the school’s highest honor — in 2016. Johnson had been student body president in 1960.

Johnson is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, brother Jimmy Johnson, a former cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers, two children, and four grandchildren.

Pride started out in life hoping a baseball career would be his ticket out of poverty as the son of a sharecropper in Mississippi. He went to Nashville, Tenn., in 1963 where four years later Pride’s baritone and guitar talent on “Just Between You and Me” put the song into Country music’s top 10. In time, only Elvis Presley sold more records for RCA Victor than he did.

Between 1967 and 1987, Pride delivered 52 Top 10 country hits, won Grammy awards, and became RCA Records’ top-selling country artist. His musicality opened minds and superseded prejudice.

“We’re not color blind yet, but we’ve advanced a few paces along the path and I like to think I’ve contributed something to that process,” Pride wrote in his memoir.

Pride is one of three Black members of the Grand Ole Opry, DeFord Bailey and Darius Rucker being the other two.

His biggest hits were “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin,’” Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” and “Mountain of Love.”

He was voted Entertainer of the Year in 1971 at the Country Music Association Awards. He was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. His last performance was on November 11 at the CMA Awards in Nashville.

Pride is survived by his wife, Ebby, three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Deadline, Wikipedia, and Charley Pride.com were sources for this report.

Rafer Johnson. Legacy.com photo.

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James “Jim” Burch: A Trailblazer on the Basketball Court as a Referee

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James “Jim” Burch (1927–2019), a trailblazer on the basketball court. Photo courtesy of richmondfreepress.com

It was the late 1960s. The Southern Conference of the National College Athletic Association had never allowed a Black man into its fold as an official. But James Burch (1927–2019) was qualified and persistent, forcing the Southern Conference coordinator of officials to take him seriously.

Burch played football and baseball at Fayetteville Teachers College. He later became a college official, working Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association games. The CIAA is a collegiate athletic conference, mostly consisting of historically Black colleges and universities. Over time, he wanted to expand this part of his career.
In 1967, Birch began writing letters to non-HBCU conferences asking for the opportunity to work games. Only one person replied: J. Dallas Shirley.

Shirley’s response was that Burch had aged out of the position. The age limit to start officiating in the Southern Conference was 35. Burch was 40.

“I told him that was discrimination,” Burch recalled during an interview with NCAA Champion Magazine. Shirley agreed and invited Burch to attend a referees meeting at Duke University.

Burch’s attendance at the meeting ignited prejudices. Two white officials questioned Burch, wanting to know what gave him the right to be present. Shirley quickly became defensive and said that Burch “had as much right to be here as anyone else.”

“That was the kind of a statement that impacts your life, and you never forget it,” said Burch.

For the next two years, Burch would officiate freshmen basketball games. Then, through a vote held by Southern Conference coaches, he began working varsity games. He also officiated games in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where his presence wasn’t widely accepted.

Sports officials are often verbally abused by fans, and college basketball is no exception. Being the only Black referee, Burch’s taunts were personal and included racial slurs. He spoke once of a time when the crowd chanted derogatory remarks.

After the final buzzer, he said, the president of the university (which Burch never named) told him that if he ever worked a game at the school’s gymnasium again, he would not be subjected to such verbal abuse.

“As fate had it, I was back at that school for a game two weeks later, and I didn’t hear a word,” he told NCAA Champion. “When it comes to putting up with stuff like that, you still have to keep on going. You can’t let it affect you.”

Born in Raleigh, N.C. and raised in Larchmont, N.Y., Burch worked in the CIAA for 29 years, the Southern Conference for 21 years and the ACC for 18 years. He also worked games in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, and refereed in 11 NCAA tournaments.

“The disturbing part is I know that there were many qualified men of color who were denied the opportunity due to the color of their skin,” Burch said. “Was that fair to them? The answer is definitely ‘no.’”
After a trailblazing career and leaving dozens of barriers in the dust, Burch died at age 91.

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