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Charley Pride was a ballplayer. Who (under 50) knew?

May 9, 2012, 11:35 AM EDT

Texas Rangers minority owner and country music recording artist Charley Pride sings the national anthem before the Rangers met the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of their MLB American League Championship Series baseball playoffs in Arlington

If you’re a certain age you never heard of Charley Pride. If you’re a bit older than a certain age (i.e. my age) you know him as one of the guys who sold Greatest Hits albums via mail order and made those commercials for them in which they sat on a stool and sang while the song titles scrolled by (see also, Milsap, Ronnie).

But if you’re a bit older, you know Charley Pride as a pretty darn successful country singer who had a string of hits in the early-mid 70s. Really: the dude was huge. Sold boatlads of albums and had a zillion number one hits.

But what most of the people in any of those demographics didn’t know was that Charley Pride was actually a damn fine baseball player once upon a time:

Pride slugged his way out of Sledge in 1952, catching on with the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. He pitched, played outfield, smashed home runs and drew the interest of the St. Louis Cardinals. “I sound like I’m bragging, but I was good,” he says. “I could throw the hummer the hook and the chain. I could hit. Boy, could I ever hit.”

But the night the Cardinals’ chief scout came to watch him in Saxon, Mo., he heard a sharp “crack” in his elbow.

“I thought why is this happening?” Pride says. “I would have been picked up. I ate and slept baseball. Baseball was my plan.”

And it remained so for a while, but only as a minor leaguer who couldn’t really get anywhere.  Baseball’s loss, of course, was music’s gain.

Neat story. I like to learn stuff like this.

(link via BTF)

  1. stlouis1baseball - May 9, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Absolutely Craig! My Father is/was a big Charley Pride fan.
    Side Note: Conway Twitty was also a baseball player.
    I seem to remember my Father telling me he played 2nd Base.

    • sdelmonte - May 9, 2012 at 12:05 PM

      And of course Tug McGraw’s son is a country singer.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 9, 2012 at 12:19 PM

        Yeah…it’s seems to be all about baseball and Country Music.
        Personally, I am not a big Country Music fan. But if I were to ever listen to it it would be classic Country like Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Randy Travis, Hank Williams, etc…
        That crap they play today is nothing but Pop in my opinion.

    • seeinred87 - May 9, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      @ stlouis:

      You’re exactly right. Anything that comes out of Nashville today is straight up pop music. Not to sound like a country music hipster or anything, but there’s still plenty of good country music being made elsewhere though.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 9, 2012 at 4:47 PM

        From what I understand Austin is where it’s at.

  2. WhenMattStairsIsKing - May 9, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Wow – what a shame. He could have been mashing every Summer, and crooning every Winter.

  3. cur68 - May 9, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    So instead of Charlie Pride: pitcher, hitter, gifted-ballplayer/singer we have Cowboy Joe West: umpire, lard-ass, disgrace-to-music/officiating, eh? Great. Just great.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 9, 2012 at 12:01 PM

      “Lard Ass”…a.k.a. “LARGE MAMMAL”….yep…pretty much sums it up for ole’ Joe.

  4. Jonny 5 - May 9, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    “I sound like I’m bragging, but I was good,” he says. “I could throw the hummer the hook and the chain. I could hit. Boy, could I ever hit.”

    This is the coolest quote I’ve heard in years.

  5. shawnuel - May 9, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    I’m 48 and I’ve known since I was a wee lad! My mom was, perhaps, the biggest CP fan on earth and my dad, the biggest baseball fan so it was inevitable. Yes……I always regretted that he injured himself as it looked like he could have been a good one. My mom’s second favorite singer was Conway Twitty so I knew about him, too.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 9, 2012 at 12:03 PM

      Wow Shawn…Charley Pride AND Conway Twitty. My Father is 71 years old.
      I am guessing your Mom is in the same age group. These two Guys were/are legends to a huge number of people.

  6. rollinghighwayblues - May 9, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    I knew, my dad told me this years ago and I was thoroughly impressed after doing some research.
    This fella can flat out sing.

    “Is anybody going to San Antone..?”

    • stlouis1baseball - May 9, 2012 at 12:34 PM

      Or…”Kiss an Angel Good Mornin.” The dude is still touring! Amazing.

      • The Baseball Idiot - May 9, 2012 at 12:54 PM

        “Roll on, Mississippi”.

        From the Broadway show Roger Miller wrote about Tom Sawyer.

  7. - May 9, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    I found this article on SI’s website about Conway Twitty’s baseball career:

    How much of a bas ass is Conway Twitty?

    …and you don’t have to call me Charlie Pride.

    • - May 9, 2012 at 12:17 PM

      I guess it’s Charley, should have caught that one.

  8. mrstpaul - May 9, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    Charley performed at Harmon Killebrew’s memorial service. The Killer requested it…

  9. micker716 - May 9, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    The man who started the whole direct sales of music albums through TV marketing concept was Peter Lemongello, cousin, and former kidnapping victim, of former MLB pitcher Mark Lemongello.

  10. planck16 - May 9, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    First concert I ever saw! My mom and dad took my brother and I to the Plant City Strawberry Festival and we got to see the great Charley Pride!

    Would he be considered the Jackie Robinson of Country Music?

    I think the “hummer, hook, and chain” quote is special, but not as special as “Kiss an Angel in the morning”

  11. rambodiaz - May 9, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    Oh my.

    Suddenly, I’m terribly nostalgic for my youth. Inevitably, Scooby Doo or Monkee reruns would be playing and the commercial breaks would include plugs for albums by Charley Pride or other artists that were big in the 70s. Time Life Music was all over the place. I had my Gobots. The Pirates weren’t good, but they were close.

    Man, being a kid was awesome.

    • - May 9, 2012 at 12:38 PM

      You know, for some reason Charley Pride & Conway don’t sound as good in digital MP3 as they did coming out of my Grandpa’s scratchy AM radio.

      • rambodiaz - May 9, 2012 at 1:01 PM

        I had that same thought about a week ago when I came across a bluegrass show while traveling to a client site for some work. Scratchy mono isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  12. ufullpj - May 9, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    I got to know Charley Pride when I was working as a TV Reporter in Branson, MO back in the early 90’s. I was lucky enough to play a round of golf with him, and interview him many times. He’s a great human, incredibly kind and gracious. And we talked a lot of baseball – he found out I played in college, and from there, we had a constant connection, and he shared some of his experiences, which never got old listening to. Great, great guy.

    • nategearhart - May 9, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      Did you ever know a guy named Jim Holopter? He’s a buddy of mine who ran sound/lights for Charley in Branson for a spell.

  13. marshmallowsnake - May 9, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Charlie Hustle was a ball player.

  14. nolanwiffle - May 9, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Saw him receive an honorary degree from Wheeling (WV) College back in ’85. He may have even sang……it was a long time ago.

  15. billymc75 - May 9, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    He also owns a small stake in the Rangers and tried out for them a few times when he was younger. Always has been a Ranger fan

    • nolanwiffle - May 9, 2012 at 1:54 PM

      In 2008 Charley was ceremoniously “drafted” by the Rangers when a draft was held to pick living former Negro League players. The Rangers came into existence in 1972, when Pride was 34 years old.

  16. Mike Luna - May 9, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Not only was he a ballplayer, but the Texas Rangers drafted him in the Negro League draft that baseball held a few years ago. Soon after he became part owner of the team when Nolan Ryan’s group took over.

    I bet Mr. Pride’s got a ton of cool stories.

  17. artisan3m - May 9, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    Charley played a concert our radio station sponsored in 1970. I picked him up at the airport, stuffed his 6’4″ frame in my 65 Mustang and at his request went to the Dairy Queen for a burger. Humble, honest, witty, and sincere, Charley still loved baseball and we talked about his abbreviated career. I’m glad he and Nolan hooked up on the Ranger deal. Those two are just natural class acts ~ and good for the game long after their glory years.

  18. jgraening - May 9, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    About 5 or 6 years ago, my wife and I stayed at a casino on the North Dakota/South Dakota border. While eating breakfast at the only restaurant in the casino, a gentleman was seated to the table next to us and seemed to be attracting a lot of attention. I had no idea who it was and figured it must have been some guy who happened to win big the night before. It wasn’t until I left the restaurant that I noticed a poster on the wall showing that Charlie Pride was playing in the lounge that night. That is my brush with fame – having eggs and bacon next to a country music legend.

  19. dmarzo1 - May 9, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    I believe curtis pride is his nephew?

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