Martin Luther King, January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968.
Earl Lawrence Wilson, October 2, 1934-April 23, 2005
Martin Luther King was named pastor of the Dexter Street Baptist Church in 1954 and graduated from Boston University in 1955 with a doctorate degree in systematic theology.
Earl Wilson signed with the Boston Red Sox in a May of 1953, the first black man to sign as a player with the Boston Red Sox.
Martin Luther King met Coretta, a music student, while studying in Boston and in June of 1953 they married.
Earl Wilson was originally signed as a catcher and in 1953 he played with the Bisbee-Douglas Copper Kings in the Arizona/Texas League. He had trouble throwing the ball to second base from behind the plate because it tailed too much, so he was converted to a pitcher.
In 1955, Martin Luther King emerged as the national spokesman for a movement when a young black lady by the name of Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery Alabama. Under his leadership, spawned the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and ’56’, and the face of America was changed forever.
Earl Wilson, in 1955, played for the Montgomery Rebels in the South Atlantic (Sally) League. He pitched 127 innings, went 6-7 with a 4.75 ERA and he walked a lot of hitters.
Martin Luther King’s journey took him through, Birmingham and Selma, Albany and St. Augustine. It took him to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial from where his words echo through history and it took him to Memphis Tennessee where his eloquent voice was silenced.
Earl Wilson’s journey took him through El Paso and San Jose, Montgomery and Albany NY, Minneapolis and then to Fenway Park where in 1959 he joined “Pumpsie Green” who had preceded him by a week and they integrated the Boston Red Sox!
Martin Luther King wove himself into the “mystic chords of memory” of our nation by summoning what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature.”
Earl Wilson wove himself into the fabric of Fenway Park history by providing a shining example of excellence both on and off the field. On the field he became the first black pitcher in the history of the American League to throw a no-hitter and he hit a home run in the game as well. Off the field he would never bend, never bow, never yield!
The voice of Dr King may have been silenced but his words are eternal. He once said, “all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”
I don’t know if Dr. King and Mr. Wilson ever met. But I do know that they each chose their path, and when the events of their lives swept them to places they never dreamed they would be, they answered, they stood up and they persevered; striving to be what they “ought to be.”
May this day bring each of us the pursuit of what we “ought to be.”
And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history,
Martin Luther King Day 2012.