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Good Seats Still Available

255 EpisodesProduced by Tim HanlonWebsite

“Good Seats Still Available” is a curious little podcast devoted to the exploration of what used-to-be in professional sports. Each week, host Tim Hanlon interviews former players, owners, broadcasters, beat reporters, and surprisingly famous "super fans" of teams and leagues that have come and gon… read more


131: Calling Balls & Strikes in Baseball’s Negro Leagues – With Byron Motley

Multi-talented singer-songwriter, photographer, and soon-to-be sports history documentarian Byron Motley joins the show this week to discuss his late father’s colorful career as an umpire in baseball’s legendary Negro Leagues – the subject of his 2007 collaborative oral history, Ruling Over Monarchs, Giants, and Stars.

A child of Depression-era rural Alabama, a teenaged Bob Motley migrated north in the early 1940s to his uncle’s home in Dayton, OH in search of work – and a tryout as a Negro League pitcher.  World War II intervened, and Motley was soon off to the front lines as one of the first African-Americans in the then-segregated (Montfort Point) Marines – receiving both a Purple Heart (shot in the foot during combat) and a Congressional Gold Medal of Honor for his service.

While recovering from his wounds, Motley caught wind of a baseball game outside his military hospital and volunteered to umpire – crutches and all.  Despite earning him an immediate trip back to the battlefield, it set the stage for his post-discharge career ambitions.

Relocated to Kansas City in 1946, Motley supplemented his day job at a local GM plant with persistent attempts to umpire games with KC’s fabled Monarchs, ultimately yielding a decade-long moonlighting career calling contests across the Negro Leagues.  Known for a flamboyant acrobatic style, Motley became nationally known as the most entertaining game-caller in the Negro majors – as much an attraction as the pioneering players and teams themselves.

Though a Major League call-up never came, Motley still broke barriers in Triple-A and NCAA ball, and was instrumental in helping usher in the eventual arrival of the first African-American umpire (his Pacific Coast League colleague Emmett Ashford) in 1966.  

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