They have been playing baseball at Morehouse College since the 1890s. The school discontinued baseball briefly, but resumed it.
Over at Georgia State University, they started playing baseball in 1956, about the time that Donn Clendenon was graduating from Morehouse and was faced with a dilemma, whether to become the first Black male elementary school teacher in Macon, Georgia, or whether to play professional baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates .
Morehouse is a Division II school and competes in the oldest Black College Athletic conference in the country, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). GSU is a Division I school and a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
In spite of the fact the two school campuses are less than ten miles apart, they had never met in a collegiate baseball game in history, until March 6, 2018, that is unless you count contests between Morehouse and Savannah State College, which was originally named Georgia State College from 1932 to 1950.
How did this game finally come about?
“We had a couple of games rained out and I was looking for a team to play, so I knew that Antonio was over at Morehouse and I gave him a call to see if he wanted to play a game,” said Greg Frady.
Frady added, “When we get in situations like this and need to give our kids some work, we first look to teams in our area. You don’t want to travel too far for these mid-week games.”
Last fall Morehouse College hired Tony Grissom to coach their baseball team. Grissom grew up not far from the Morehouse campus in East Point, Georgia . He is the younger brother of former Major League outfielder Marquis Grissom.
We caught up with him last fall at the Buck O’Neil Coaches and Scouts Association Showcase at Westlake High School in College Park, Georgia. He was looking for talent to add to the roster he inherited when Coach Mitchell decided to retire.
At that time we asked him what were his expectations for Morehouse baseball.
“I just want the kids to come in and learn to be competitive,” he said.
Neither of us knew at that time that Grissom’s team would play in a historic game in his first season at the helm.
“Coach Frady called and asked if we wanted to play. We have had some rain outs this year so I wanted to give the team some work and I thought this would be a good opportunity to see how they perform against top competition,” Grissom said before the game.
Jason Davis, a senior mathematics major, who grew up in Dekalb County, did not seem fazed by playing Division I competition.
“The big thing about tonight for me is I am able to play a college game in Decatur, but I do like the fact that I get to play this level of competition.
Davis, a typical smart Morehouse man, has no allusions of playing professional baseball. He has his sights on working in sports analytics for a major league franchise. All ready this season, he has had to juggle school, baseball, and trips to MIT for analytics conferences. He will be back on the road next week to attend yet another analytics conference.
But before analyzing stats of other performers, Davis had a little work of his own to analyze. For the night Davis went 1-2, with a walk and one putout from his defensive post in centerfield.
Morehouse fell behind 7-0 early in the ball game. They held their poise and came storming back behind a two RBI performance from Auliver Astin (2-3 w/2b), before falling short 7-4 in the game which was called after five innings due to fog.
Welcome to Division I play Morehouse.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org