Ask someone either at home or at work, "How are you doing today?"Several replies will be forthcoming.
Some respond "Ok","Fine" or "Surviving". As long as Sallie Potter’s LouisvilleEbony Aces were playing ball in the Negro League circuit, times and survivingwere good. A steady salary, Potter’s bus, driven by Potter, with recliningseats, which carried the team from one scheduled game to another, black hotels,black restaurants and night clubs made for an indulgent and uncomplicated lifeon the road. When Potter released veteran player Raymond Mikes, because he brokehis foot rounding third base, playing the Philadelphia American Stars, Bingoorganized the players and revolted against owner black owner Potter. After all,Bingo thought he knew all the ins and outs of the game, having watched Potterand fellow hustler Lionel Foster all these years. How hard could it be owningand managing a ball club? With Lionel backing Bingo with a little capital untilthings got going, a barnstorming baseball outfit was born.Order now
Bingo first recruitedfellow teammate Leon Carter, the best pitcher alive, and then one by one talkedPotter’s Aces into becoming Bingo’s All-Stars. Even Raymond Mikes had agreed tocome along as bookkeeper. With third baseman Louis’s Lincoln convertible andBingo’s Auburn, the team was set and left for Pittsburgh to play the EliteGiants. Lionel had helped Bingo set up games in Cleveland, Toledo and Chicago,after that, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then Iowa. Life was good and surviving was noproblem. Bingo knew hustling baseball games in small rural towns was a lotdifferent than playing the usual scheduled games in the Negro League and triedto acquaint his teammates, who had not traveled west of Chicago, with this fact.
"We got to be polite and cheerful all the time even when we ain’t feelingit; (Brashler 50). Life in segregated America was not easy for Negroes. White restaurants and hotels did not permit them inside. It was necessary tofind black establishments, who would serve Negroes.
If no place was found to putthem up for the night, they slept in cars or outside on the ground in bedrolls. Even if they had money and were able to pay, prejudice and bigotry took chargeand made life for the Negro, as a second class citizen. Bingo was aware of this,but he was going to find out first hand how it really was. Life would becomesurvival. Once the All-Stars left the Eastern cities and established NegroLeague baseball schedules, they would have to hustle their own games.
Becausetheses games were in smaller populated areas, the All-Stars would have to playmore games just to break even. Lionel had advised them to play as many games aspossible. Road travel was difficult and slow, streets and highways were notpaved. Cars lumbered over the roads at a snail’s crawl.
Dust not only covers thepassengers, but also plugged up the car’s engines. At times, after the lastgame, the players filed back into the cars, got as comfortable as possible andwere driven by Bingo and Louis, or back up drivers, on to the next town, thenext game. Showmanship was necessary. Upon entering small towns, it wasnecessary to drive down the business district, the driver would honk the horn asthe players stood up in the car and waved to the people.
Then they would changeinto their uniforms, re-enter the town, driving down the main streets, honkingthe horn, players would walk behind the car and wave and bow to the people, allin an effort to gain interest and enthusiasm in the upcoming ball game. At thebeginning of the games, were hot ball routines, infield pantomimes and pitchingshows. Then there was the baseball fields, in some cases just pastures with acouple of wooden benches and a broken down backstop. If an admissions standcould not be built, then the All- Stars would pass the hat in small rural areas.
After all, expenses have to be met. The strain of the road eroded playersmentally and emotionally. Day in and day out it was the same routine over andover again. The ever present discrimination and class distension appeared inmany different themes.
Louis was razored for propositioning a white call girl, awhite car mechanic took advantage of Bingo’s ignorance concerning needing newspark plugs for Bingo’s Auburn, Bingo’s car was destroyed when a white woman’struck hit it, there were small white town hecklers at the ball .