Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story tells the long-overdue story of the first all-white vs. all-black Little League baseball game in the Deep South.
The game took place about eight years after Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947. The Civil Rights movement had started a year before this playoff game took place. When you’re a kid and into baseball, that’s all you want to do. It really doesn’t matter who you’re playing with because you just want to play the game!
The all-black Pensacola Jaycees had won the Northwest Region title in Florida. They made the trek to Orlando to face the all-white Orlando Kiwanis squad. It would mark an historic event all across the South because no white team had ever played a black team in Little League. White teams would forfeit if it meant playing an all-black team. It’s what happened shortly before in South Carolina, leading the all-black Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars to victory by forfeit.
Raymond Riddles was the Little League district commissioner for northwest Florida at the time. If Riddles had his way, the Jaycees would have been ruled ineligible. Peter J. McGovern, the president of Little League, made it clear that if the Jaycees were not allowed to play, it would be deemed illegal. The other teams in the playoffs didn’t have a problem playing the Jaycees. The city of Orlando worked with the Little League governing body to make things run as smooth as they could.
Even though they were just children at the time, the 1955 Little League State Championship meant more than just playing baseball. It meant showing the world that you can either double-down on your past or work together for a better future. The fact that this Orlando squad didn’t forfeit the game is very telling. Yeah, they had it better than the Pensacola squad but when it comes to the ballpark, none of that matters. Once you step inside the playing field, all that matters is having fun and winning. When you get down to it, this is what baseball is truly about.
Jon Strong’s documentary reunites the two teams to tell their story. Should someone decide to make a narrative feature, there’s a strong, compelling story to be told. If not, the documentary tells their story to great detail. Their story is grounded through the narratives of team captains Will Preyer (Pensacola) and Stewart Hall (Orlando). Even as they revisit the past, we get to know these former Little League players in long close-up takes. How were their upbringings different from each other? To get an idea of how much has and hasn’t changed, there’s even a montage of clips depicting some of awful events that have transpired through the years.
Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr., Gary Sheffield, Davey Johnson, and Ambassador Andrew Young are among those to offer their insight.
While so much (and so little) progress has been made since 1955, Long Time Coming shows us that sports can transcend race and bring people together.
DIRECTOR: Jon Strong
FEATURING: Willie Preyer, Admiral “Spider” LeRoy, Willie Stromas, Cleveland Daily, Willie V. Robinson, Rev. Freddie Augustine, Stewart Hall, Jerry Cowart, Bill Hudson, Danny Rivenbark, Gary Fleming, Ron Homan, John Lane, Andrew Young, Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr., Gary Sheffield, Davey Johnson, John Rivers, Norman Robinson, Chris Lamb, Robin Reshard, Lance Van Auken