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Public Statements

The Cannon Street All-Stars

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SCOTT. Mr. President, in the heart of Charleston, SC, lies Cannon Street; it's a modest street spanning just a few city blocks. However, within its history lies the story of what Dr. Creighton Hale, the former CEO of little league baseball, called "the most significant amateur team in baseball history.''

In 1955, the area surrounding this street was one of economic blight and social unease. In an effort to keep kids out of trouble and teach skills that only team sports can provide, the local YMCA organized four little league teams for the neighborhood kids. The Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars consisted of seventeen players: John Bailey, Charles Bradley, Vermont Brown, William Godfrey, Vernon Grey, Allen Jackson, Carl Johnson, John Mack, Leroy Major, David Middleton, Arthur Peoples, John Rivers, Norman Robinson, Maurice Singleton, Leroy Carter, George Gregory, and Augustus Holt. They were coached and founded by: Lee J. Bennett, Walter Burke, Rufus Dilligard, A.O. Graham, Robert Morrison, R.H. Penn, and Benjamin Singleton. The team would advance to the Charleston City Little League playoff games but would never be given the opportunity to earn a spot in the Little League World Series. It was not because they were unworthy players or because they could not afford to go. The color of their skin stifled the dreams of these twelve-year-old boys.

The Charleston playoff games were boycotted in 1955 to preserve racial segregation. Because teams again refused to play against them, the Cannon Street All-Stars advanced past the state and regional playoffs. The National Little League invited the All-Stars to the Little League World Series as special guests; they could not compete for the title because technically they hadn't played their way to the championships. They returned to Charleston, dismayed and disappointed.

As children, they embodied the very characteristics that organized sports aim to impart--teamwork, courage and respect. As adults they have worked in productive and valuable careers such as architecture, law enforcement and education. As they have grown older, they are now volunteers in their communities--giving back, yet again. While they never had the opportunity to compete, their story has demonstrated where we have come from as a nation.

Last month members of my staff had the opportunity to meet several of the original Cannon Street Little Leaguers who traveled to Washington, DC to be recognized at Nationals Stadium before the Nationals-Phillies game. Their story remains powerful more than 65 years later, and I know my staff will never forget having the opportunity to meet them.

Today, the neighborhood that encompasses Cannon Street has developed into an integral part of the Charleston education and science community. It is home to a number of colleges and universities and a world-class research hospital. The boys of the Cannon Street Little League Team are men who through their careers and service to the community have become assets to their neighborhoods. In spite of the adversity they encountered and the challenges they confronted, these young people illustrated to the world the absurdity of segregation and the hatred inherent in racism.

In the 55 years since they were excluded from competing to earn a spot at the Little League World Series in their own right, America has matured. I would like to believe that a handful of twelve-year-olds contributed to our maturity.

It is with great admiration that I share their story and my respect for these men with you, my colleagues.


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