This is a little bit of a tease….but, since it’s MY project, I can tease all I want, right?

This is James Zapp.

Jim Zapp of the Birmingham Black Barons…the Jim Zapp whose home run in the bottom of the ninth inning sent the Barons to the Negro League World Series in 1948…the Jim Zapp who wasn’t allowed to play in the Major Leagues…the Jim Zapp who wasn’t allowed to play in his neighborhood park as a boy…

The tease part of this is that I’m not going to tell you, yet, the name of the teenager who was on base when Zipper hit that home run, or the type of pitch that he remembers vividly, to this day, sending over the wall…or what it was like to face Satchel Paige…Not gonna tell you about the feelings of a young man who had served his country but was refused service in most restaurants.

The 2 hours that I spent with the 87-year-old Mr. Zapp marked the beginning of a personal project that I have had in mind for quite some time. As a matter of fact, much to my chagrin and dismay, when I first came up with the idea, there were still 7 former Negro League players living here in Nashville…

Now…there are two!

I had a dream, a while back, that I was photographing one of the players, Henry Kimbro, now deceased, when a bus pulled up outside where we were ‘shooting’. You know, one of those roundish, Silver Stream type buses from the ‘40s….

A uniformed ballplayer jumped out of the bus and yelled ,” Henry!, C’mon! We’ve got a game!”

I can remember Mr Kimbro looking at his team-mates (who had all become 20 years old again) and then looking at me. I asked, “What do we need to do?”, motioning to my lights and camera. He replied, “Man, I gotta go! They need me. We got a game to play!”  He then said, with a smile, “We got room on the bus as long as you don’t add to the load!”

I picked up two duffle bags that had appeared in that miraculous ‘dreaming’ way, one of which produced the unmistakable wind-chime clang of Ash wood bats,  and was proceeding excitedly to the bus when I noticed that ALL of the players were watching me load their equipment. They were smiling at each other and jabbing each other with elbows and pointing. Then it dawned on me that they had NEVER had a white man carry THEIR bags, or look up to them, or serve them gladly…

When I awoke the next morning, I knew that I had to do something to try to show the respect, admiration, and somewhat disgusted sense of history  that I felt for these men.

Mr. Zapp and I talked about baseball, of course…along with a side of baseball, and American life, that I do not have first hand experience with, nor have I ever understood. He talked about the “mean-ness” of America back in the 40’s and 50’s. We laughed about the incongruity of the baseball name, “The Atlanta Black Crackers”, and we both felt pride when I told him of my young daughter’s response to our first family discussion about segregation and the treatment of Blacks in the era when I was child.  Her reaction was, “What??!! Why would anybody do something THAT stupid?!!! That makes absolutely NO sense!!”

I hope with every generation this sense of outrage and equality heightens!

When I first contacted Mr. Zapp, his first sentiment to my request to photograph him was, “Aw…you don’t want my picture now..I’ve gotten too old!”

My rebuttal was, “Oh yes, that is EXACTLY what I want to see and show. I want to see what’s in your eyes as you talk about the life that you have lived!”  I saw a lot there…probably more than I was able to capture with the camera, but I enjoyed the conversation so much that I, at least, captured it in my heart….Sorry about you!…..naah…kidding…Hopefully, I’ll be able to share it sometime!

So now I am diligently searching the country for as many ball players as I can find. (Their ‘protectors’ don’t want to see them exploited in any way…which I understand) I at least have one other  ‘for sure’ phone number.

The photo above is part of the tease. It’s not the best of the bunch, just one that I worked on quickly so that I could see what I need to do in the processing to achieve the look that I want…Not there yet!

If you don’t hear of progress on this project in the NEAR future, PLEASE, prod me!  Ask me, “Randy, are you adding to the load, or carrying it?”, and I’ll know what you mean.


~ by rkpowers on July 9, 2010.

One Response to “Teaser”

  1. Randy, your “project” touches on two subjects very dear to me….baseball and human equality. BTW, nice photo! Please keep posting!


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