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On this date in 2002, the surviving members of the all-Black 1955 Cannon Street YMCA Little League all-star team were honored.
The commemoration took place at the Volunteer Stadium during opening ceremonies of the 2002 Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, PA. Forty-seven years earlier, this Little League team was invited but then were not allowed to play because they were Black. In the summer of 1955, 14 boys from the Cannon Street YMCA Little League in Charleston, S.C., were looking forward to entering the Little League Tournament, along with tens of thousands of other boys in all the 48 U.S. states and several other countries.
Like all Little League players their age, they knew the tournament ended for a lucky few with a trip to the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport. Also that year, nine-year-old George W. Bush played his first of four years at Central Little League of Midland, TX. He later became the first Little League graduate to be elected President of the United States. In 1955, there were 62 chartered Little League programs in South Carolina. All but one of those leagues, the Cannon Street YMCA Little League was all white. Until then, no South Carolina teams with Black players had entered the post-season tournament.
Because they were very good that year, the Little League invited the Cannon Street team to Williamsport for the World Series as guests of Little League, but not to play the game. Despite chants from the crowd to "Let them play," the South Carolina rule held that day. The South Carolina Little League ended up losing hundreds of franchises over the controversy and white leagues in the South left the program en masse.
The 1955 Cannon Street team player roster included John Bailey, Charles Bradley, Vermont Brown, William Godfrey, Vernon C. Grey, Allen Jackson, Carl Johnson, John Mack, Leroy Major, David Middleton, Arthur Peoples, John Rivers, Norman Robinson, and Maurice Singleton. Alternates are Leroy Carter and George Gregory. Coaches and founders are Lee J. Bennett, Walter Burke, Rufus Dilligard, A.O. Graham, Robert Morrison, R.H. Penn, and Benjamin Singleton. Honorary team member, and one of the driving forces behind the move to help honor them, is Charleston American Little League president Augustus Holt.