Negro Leagues baseball player Ray Knox receives key to city

Nora Shelly, Reporter

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl presented Monday night a key to the city to Ray Knox, a former Negro Leagues baseball player.

Knox began playing in the Negro Leagues at age 14 in 1949, and is one of just a few dozen former players who are still alive. The Negro Leagues originated in 1920 after Jim Crow laws barred black men from participating in Major League Baseball.

The former Chicago American Giants and New Orleans Eagles player received a standing ovation as he was handed the key before the City Council meeting.

“It means a whole lot,” Knox told the Daily after the meeting. “I’ll never forget this.”

Knox played in the Negro Leagues until 1952, when he married his wife with whom he eventually had six kids. He moved to Evanston in the 1970s, where he managed a dry cleaning business and raised his kids as a single parent after his wife died in 1963. At 83, however, he is energetic and spry, saying he can still do pushups.

His daughter, Patricia Knox, said the importance of her father receiving a key to the city was something she couldn’t express in words.

“It’s a big thing to me, that’s really exciting,” she told the Daily. “It’s really neat.”

Patricia Knox said her father’s story can teach people to learn and live in peace and harmony, and begin to put racial issues behind.

Robert Bady, who belongs to the same church as Ray Knox, told The Daily he was introduced to the former baseball player by a fellow church member five or six years ago and knew he had to help share Knox’s story.

“Human to human, it’s really about loving each other,” he said. “Here’s a great story of perseverance, here’s a great story of honor.”

Bady said the mayor giving a key to the city to Knox was a great way to recognize him. The symbolic key is an award that honors citizens who have in some way contributed to the betterment of the community.

Bady also said people could learn from Knox about the history of the Negro Leagues and how to be a great family man, adding that Knox worked “tirelessly” for his family after the death of his wife.

“He wasn’t Jackie Robinson,” he said. “But what he carries with him now is this legacy that goes on forever that you know, he played with this group of guys that allowed anyone to play.”

Tisdahl said she was particularly excited to meet Knox, because he knew Minnie Minoso, one of Tisdahl’s heroes and a former Chicago White Sox player, of which the mayor is a fan.

Apart from being excited to meet Knox, Tisdahl said she never knew that a Negro Leagues player lived in Evanston and was surprised he hadn’t sought any honors in the past.

“The Negro Leagues are a tremendous part of American history,” she told The Daily. “He’s a very humble man.”

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