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Bill to honor Walker hits House floor for 3rd time

02/14/2017, 12:23am EST
By By JIM PROVANCE BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

Former Toledo Blue Stocking considered to be first black major leaguer

COLUMBUS — Supporters of the idea of setting aside a day each year to honor the first black man to play in baseball’s major leagues hope the third time at bat will bring the bill home.

State Reps. David Leland (D., Columbus) and Tom West (D., Canton) reintroduced a bill Monday that would honor Moses Fleetwood Walker on Oct. 7, his birthday.

The bare-handed catcher “Fleet” Walker caught less than a full season in 1884 for the Toledo Blue Stockings, which was part of the American Association. The team soon folded, but when the association later became the American League, Walker retroactively was considered to have been the first black major league player.

He also was one of the reasons major league team owners soon after erected the so-called “color barrier” Jackie Robinson would 60 years later get credit for breaking.

The bill first was introduced two sessions ago. It was reported out of committee but never reached the House floor. Last session, it passed the House but was left stranded in the Senate.

This time, backers are looking to get it across home plate, Gov. John Kasich’s desk.

Leland said he chose to introduce the bill because it marked the opening of spring training for the majors and came in the middle of Black History Month.

“But honoring Moses Walker is more than just remembering a baseball player,” he said. “It is a reminder of who we say we are as a nation, a nation whose constitution vows to protect everyone’s inalienable rights to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

“It is also a persistent reminder that sometimes, after we get something right, we lose our way. So today we seek to honor Moses Fleetwood Walker and remember that the battle for equality, justice, and freedom never dies.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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