Leaguer of the Month
"If the ball bounces more than once just put it in your pocket 'cause you're not gonna get him."
That is how many described the blazing fast Norman Lumpkin. A left-handed hitter along the lines of Otis Nixon, Lumpkin chopped down on the ball and used his great speed to consistently bat over .300.
grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and honed his skills playing semipro ball
in the 1930s in the industrial leagues. Lumpkin worked and played for
many industries in Atlanta including Goodyear Tires and Napa Auto Parts.
The industrial leagues in Atlanta were some of the top in the country,
and, on the road, played in some of the toughest towns for people of color, including industrial towns in North and South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Virginia and Georgia, where, not only were the crowds rough, but so were the third-rate hotels.
Flyhawk Lumpkin played all three outfield positions, but, with his speed, preferred center. After excelling in the semipro leagues and being picked for numerous Industrial All-Star teams, Lumpkin was signed by the Atlanta Black Crackers after World War II.
Lumpkin played for Black Crackers owner John and Billie Harden (husband and wife) and manager Goose Curry. Teammates included Red Moore, Sunny Jim Echols, Butch Davis and Stretch O'Kelley.
The Black Crackers played in beautiful Ponce DeLeon Park, known for a huge magnolia tree in right field. The Black Crackers rented the park from the white Southern League's Atlanta Crackers.
The Black Crackers were one of the most popular teams in the South, and only the best of the best could make the powerful Atlanta teams of the 1940s, the heyday of Black baseball.
Making it to the black baseball big time did not mean life was that much easier for Lumpkin.
"We had to dress at the black YMCA on Butler Street. We weren't allowed to dress out there [at the park] you know, you couldn't shower there. You had to take the bus back to the YMCA and shower. On the road we usually slept in private homes. Some of the places you could find a black hotel, but you couldn't find a black hotel in small towns."
By the time Jackie Robinson integrated the Majors, Lumpkin was nearing 30 years old and knew he was probably too old to be a Major League prospect. Lumpkin finished his professional career with the New York Black Yankees then returned home to Atlanta where he still resides.