07/28/2008 11:08 AM ET
Charley Pride: From pitcher to performer
Negro League vet boasts Hall of Fame pipes
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
In 1939, the National Baseball Hall of Fame opened in Cooperstown, N.Y., and in 1967, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, inspired by baseball's version, opened in Nashville. In other words, the Grand Old Game and the Grand Ole Opry have gone hand in hand for a long time. In honor of the recent Hall of Fame celebration in Cooperstown, MLB.com/Entertainment went to the Country Hall recently and dug up some interesting connections between country music Hall of Fame members and baseball. Today: Charley Pride.
NASHVILLE -- Charley Pride is a constant around Texas Rangers camp during Spring Training, and if you mistake him for one of the current members of the Rangers roster, don't feel silly.
That's because the Country Music Hall of Famer also has a very interesting and quite accomplished personal baseball history that you'll learn more about when you visit the Country Hall.
"He really gave it a go in baseball," says Country Hall director of media relations Tina Wright. "He was a very good player but the timing just wasn't right. Fortunately for us, he made it in country music."
Pride, who was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000, was born on a cotton farm in rural Mississippi and left home at the age of 16 to play Negro League baseball.
A pitcher with a solid curveball, Pride played Negro League ball in Memphis and Birmingham before serving in the U.S. Army for two years. He left the service in 1958, still convinced he would make it to the Major Leagues, but he hurt his arm in the Pioneer League and didn't make the California Angels when he tried out in the early 1960s.
Pride was soon discovered by country star Red Sovine, who found out Pride liked to sing on the baseball team bus, and urged to relocate to Nashville and give country music a shot.
Photo by Fabry courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Sovine was right to the tune of 36 No. 1 singles, 25 million albums sold worldwide and 31 gold records.
But Pride never forgot baseball, and it hasn't forgotten him.
He faced -- and singled off of -- Jim Palmer in an exhibition game in the 1970s, he sang the National Anthem of the 1991 World Series, he is a board member of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Cincinnati, and he's a longtime Dallas resident and Rangers season-ticket holder, not to mention his yearly Spring Training workout appearances at the Rangers' complex in Surprise, Ariz.
And on June 5 of this year, Charley Pride and his brother, Mack "The Knife" Pride, were among 30 former Negro League players symbolically "drafted" by Major League teams, with Charley naturally going to the Rangers, and his brother picked by the Colorado Rockies.
Find out more about Charley Pride by visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.