One of the many things I love about these profiles I’m privileged to write for BlackCollege Nines is the honesty in these stories. I’m grateful to these men for sharing so much when we visit. My latest conversations are with Ralph Garr and George Altman.
Ralph Garr was a lifetime .306 hitter in a 13-year career with the Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox and California Angels. He collected an MLB-high 214 hits in his All-Star season of 1974, the same year he set a still-standing record for most hits before the All-Star break. He also led the league with 17 triples that year and 11 the next, indicative of his blazing speed and hitting prowess. Mr. Garr, a long-time Braves scout, exudes joy when he speaks. Imagine his opportunity to play for the legendary Prez Jones at Grambling and interacting with the equally legendary Eddie Robinson during his time on campus.
George Altman, of Tennessee State (then Tennessee A&I), played a few years before Mr. Garr broke into the big leagues, with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets before extending his career in Japan. He was a two-time MLB All-Star and batted .261 with 101 HRs and 403 RBI in nine MLB seasons. In Japan, he enjoyed even greater success. With older former ballplayers like Mr. Altman, I’m always interested to hear about race relations at the time, on and off the field. What surprised me was his unvarnished take on Ernie Banks.