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In 1940, Lacy joined another black paper, the Chicago Defender, and continued the fight. Bostic and Smith, who was a friend of Robinson's, joined voices with Lacy, as did such well-known white sportswriters as Bob Considine, whose reporting was nationally syndicated, John Carmichael of the Chicago Daily News and Gordon Cobbledick of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Communist Daily Worker also became, for Lacy, an unwelcome participant in the movement. Celebrities were getting into the act. Lacy, for example, was supposed to appear at the 1943 baseball meetings in Cleveland to plead his case. But at the last minute, the Defender decided for publicity reasons to send the famous actor-singer Paul Robeson in his place. Robeson was eloquent, arguing, "They said that America would never stand for my playing Othello with a white cast, but it is the triumph of my life." His far-left politics, however, were not likely to impress ultraconservative commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and the baseball establishment.
The next year, several months before Landis's death, Lacy, now at the Afro-American, wrote to all of the owners suggesting that an integration committee be set up. A short time later, he was appointed to such a committee, along with Rickey, representing the National League, Larry MacPhail of the Yankees, representing the American League, and Philadelphia magistrate Joseph H. Rainey. Rickey and Lacy met twice, but, according to Lacy, "MacPhail always found a way to be too busy for us," and the full committee never met. Soon, Rickey told Lacy, somewhat mysteriously, that he was going to work on integrating baseball on his own. Then, in April of 1945, the owners picked a Southern politician, A.B. (Happy) Chandler, a U.S. senator from Kentucky, as Landis's successor.
After that, events began to move rapidly. With Chandler's wholehearted support—"I don't believe in barring Negroes from baseball just because they are Negroes," he was quoted as saying—Rickey broke the color line by signing Robinson to a contract with the Dodgers' Triple A farm team in Montreal on Oct. 23, 1945, Lacy's 42nd birthday.
The Afro-American gave Lacy the Robinson beat, the biggest sports assignment in history for a black sportswriter. "Jackie was not the best player in the Negro leagues," Lacy says, "but he was the most suitable. Oh, that's a terrible word, suitable. But he was the right man. He had gone to a racially-mixed college, been an Army officer and had been such a football star at UCLA that he was used to media attention." Another black, pitcher John Wright, joined Robinson in the minors.
The black players and writers endured together. A cross was burned on the lawn of the boardinghouse where they stayed before an exhibition game in Macon, Ga. When Robinson and the black writers were rebuffed at the gates of a ballpark in Sanford, Fla., during spring training, Robinson found a loose board in an outfield fence for them to sneak through. Lacy, denied access to press boxes while barnstorming that first year, was allowed by Rickey to report from the Dodger dugout. In New Orleans, Lacy was banished to the press-box roof, where, to his tearful delight, he was joined by a contingent of white writers from New York. "They told me they just wanted to get a tan up there," says Lacy. "But they already had tans. They'd been in Florida a month."
Tom Swope, chairman of the Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, banned Lacy from the press box at Crosley Field during Robinson's rookie season with the Dodgers, and a functionary at Yankee Stadium wouldn't let him into a 1947 World Series game even though he had the proper credentials. "Milton Richman of the United Press came by then and jumped all over this guy, telling him that my pass was just as good as his," Lacy says. "The guy finally relented." The newspaper fraternity, with a few nasty exceptions, backed Lacy and his black confreres throughout these trying early days, and in 1948, Lacy became the first black member of the Baseball Writers' Association.
But Lacy never wrote about his own struggles. He wrote only about Robinson's ordeal—and Rickey's. "Jackie was such a strong individual," he says. "I both liked and admired him. I always said I wanted my son, Tim, to grow up to be like him, and in many respects he has.
"But Jackie wasn't the only one under pressure. Rickey had a terrific amount of it. Here he was, the man who hired Jackie. Then he was having trouble with [manager Leo] Durocher, who got banned by Chandler in '47 for bad associations. And Durocher's wife, Laraine Day, was after Rickey to keep Leo in line. And with all of this, Rickey was having health problems. I think that man should be made a saint."
Lacy did not rest his case after Robinson, however. He fought next to integrate the hotels where major league players stayed on the road. "Now, I ask you, what sense did it make to have such high-priced talent living apart from the rest of the team?" he says. "I think the Giants, before they moved to San Francisco, were the first to realize how foolish this was. It was before an exhibition game against the old Coast League Seals in San Francisco when I pointed out to Chub Feeney [then the team's general manager] that he had guys like Willie Mays and Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson holed up in some little hotel while the rest of the players, people who might never even wear a major league uniform, were staying at the famous Palace. Chub just looked at me and said, 'Sam, you're right.' He got on the phone to [owner] Horace Stoneham, and that was the end of that."
In 1984, Lacy became the first black journalist to be enshrined in the Maryland Media Hall of Fame. A year later, he was inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. He has served on the President's Council on Physical Fitness and on the Baseball Hall of Fame's selection committee for the Negro leagues. And John Steadman, sports columnist for the Baltimore Evening Sun, has proposed him for election to the writers' wing of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, an honor for which he seems more than qualified.