March 4, 1997
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:cr04mr97-18]
TRIBUTE TO NEGRO LEAGUE HEROES FROM LINCOLN PARK
HON. CONSTANCE A. MORELLA of maryland in the house of representatives Tuesday, March 4, 1997 Mrs. MORELLA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to salute the community of Lincoln Park, which celebrates its 106th anniversary this year. Lincoln Park is a self-contained community within the city of Rockville, MD. As an African-American community, through the years it has managed to keep rich its traditions and history. Lincoln Park is unique not only for its heritage, but also for how the residents interact together. They have continued to work together as a community in the same manner that their ancestors did long ago. The effort to retain and continue the traditions of their history gives the community respect for their ancestors and a vision of hope for their descendants. With the month of February designated as a time to celebrate Black History, it is only fitting that a community so rich in its African- American heritage would seek to share and explore its roots. Thanks to the hard work of founding president Anita Neal Powell and vice- president Deacon Leroy Neal, the Lincoln Park Historical Society held their 20th Annual Black History Program at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church on February 28. I wish to pay special tribute to Mr. Russell Awkward and Mr. Gordon Hopkins. These former professional Negro League baseball players will be speaking at the presentation on the topic, ``Building Historical Dreams for Our Children.'' These two fine gentlemen are the only members of the Negro League living in Montgomery County, MD. I also wish to honor Mr. Elbert Israel and Mr. Clarence Israel, also two former Negro baseball players from Rockville. Clarence Israel died in April 1987, and Elbert Israel passed away just this past October. The story of these men says a great deal about our history and the hopes and dreams for our children. Russell Awkward grew up with the dream of one day playing for the New York Yankees. He got his professional baseball career started by playing for the Washington Royal Giants. As a player, Awkward had good speed and was a consistent hitter, usually batting first or second in the batting order. He went on to play for the New York Cubans and the Newark Eagles until he was called to military service with the U.S. Army. Gordon Hopkins played second base for the Clowns for 2 years. He was good at getting the ball in play and was known for his ability to stretch hits into extra bases as well as for his exceptional range in the field. After the 1954 season he was drafted into the armed services, but still played baseball for the U.S. Marines. Clarence Israel played in the Negro League in the 1940's. He was a decent hitter with good speed and what he lacked in power he made up in hustle. He was a second baseman with the Newark Eagles for 3 years from 1940 to 1942. He then signed with the Homestead Grays to fill an empty spot at third base for the 1943 season. In 1946, he was back with the Eagles and helped them to win the Negro National League pennant for the first time in 9 years. He played three games of the World Series that year and had a pinch hit single off Satchel Paige to help the Eagles win the title. He returned the next season to the Grays for his last year in professional baseball. Elbert Israel, or Al, as he was called on the field, played with the Philadelphia Stars in the 1950's after the club joined the Negro League. His greatest contribution to the dream of black men in baseball, however, came in 1953 when he joined the class A minor league baseball team in Savannah, GA. Al Israel and four other black baseball players joined the South Atlantic League, the Sally League, as it was called. This league consisted of small towns in the deep South. These five players broke the color barrier in baseball in the most racially divided area of the country. The test for the racial integration of baseball rested on these five men in this class A baseball league. The courage of these men and determination to follow their dream helped to make it possible for the next generation of African-Americans to enjoy America's pastime at all levels of the game. I hope that everyone will join me in honoring these men and women and wishing the whole Lincoln Park community a most happy and successful 106th anniversary.