SAN FRANCISCO, CA — In the nearly 60 years since Jackie Robinson led players of color into Major League Baseball, some 150 pitchers have reached the milestone of a 20-win season, and only 12 of those pitchers have been African-American. Known as the "12 Black Aces," FSN Bay Area pays tribute to four of the 12 men who won their 20 games in the Bay Area. The Bay Area Black Aces, a half-hour program, debuts on FSN Bay Area on Sunday, September 19 at 4:00 PM.
The Bay Area Black Aces chronicles the accomplishments of African-American pitchers Sam Jones (San Francisco Giants, 1959-61), Vida Blue (Oakland A's, 1969-77 and San Francisco Giants, 1978-81 and 1985-86), Mike Norris (Oakland A's, 1975-1983 and 1990), and Dave Stewart (Oakland A's, 1986-92 and 1995). The documentary examines their rise as athletes, the obstacles they overcame to reach the mound, and the achievements that made them some of the greatest pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball.
Interviews with the three living aces (Blue, Norris, and Stewart), with teammates, friends, journalists, and opponents highlight The Bay Area Black Aces. Hall-of-Famers Dennis Eckersley, Reggie Jackson, Willie McCovey, Joe Morgan, Frank Robinson, and Lon Simmons, as well as long-time Bay Area managers Dusty Baker and Tony LaRussa, share their memories.
The rest of the "12 Black Aces" roster includes Al Downing, Bob Gibson, Dwight "Doc" Gooden, Jim "Mudcat" Grant (who coined the term "Black Aces"), Ferguson Jenkins, Don Newcomb, J.R. Richard, and Earl Wilson.
"African-American 20-game winners are so historically rare, and yet these four exceptional pitchers – and amazing people – reached that milestone in the same place," said Seth Magalaner, producer of The Bay Area Black Aces. "The Bay Area Black Aces shows how these guys did what they did: the qualities they brought to the mound, and how they found opportunities here that might have been denied them elsewhere."
Excerpts from The Bay Area Black Aces:
On African American baseball players – "In the 50s and 60s, even early 70s, people thought they weren't smart enough to be pitchers."
On the lack of minorities in baseball today – "You see scouts afraid to go into the inner city. And you see a lot of baseball fields sitting empty in the inner city, you don't see kids out there playing."
On Vida Blue's fastball – "His fastball looked like after he released it, it got near home plate you'd say, 'Aw, I'm right on this one.' And then it just looked like it picked up speed, pffft, right by you, you'd say, 'What's going on here?'"
On Sam Jones' ability – "The first time I faced Sam – he threw me a curve ball – I think I jumped out of my shoes, dropped the bat, my underclothes, everything."
On facing Hank Aaron – "I struck out Hank Aaron. On three pitches. And as I came off the field, Alvin Dark came up to me and put his hand on my chest to stop me and said 'Son, you just made my ballclub.'"
Margie Sabathia (Mother of Cleveland Indians Pitcher C.C Sabathia) :
On Dave Stewart's influence – "The way he stood out there on the mound, so much confidence, he was the man, he was the man for us. We would try to get C.C. out there to see Dave Stewart, I wanted C.C. to be a Dave Stewart."
Additional airdates: Monday, September 20 at 1:00 PM; Thursday, September 23 at 7:00 PM; Sunday, September 26 at 4:00 PM; and Thursday, October 7 at 7:00 PM.
FSN Bay Area reaches more than 3.6 million households in Northern California and Northern Nevada. FSN Bay Area's programming includes Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants baseball, Golden State Warriors basketball, San Jose Sharks hockey, San Jose Earthquakes soccer, Best Damn Sports Show Period, I, Max, FSN Across America, Beyond the Glory, and NASCAR related shows. FSN Bay Area is managed by Rainbow Sports Networks.
Rainbow Sports Networks is a division of Rainbow Media Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE: CVC). FSN reaches more than 82 million households nationwide and is a service of National Sports Partners, equally owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, LLC, and Fox Entertainment Group. Rainbow Sports Networks incorporates Rainbow's 50% ownership in FSN and Fox Sports National Advertising and the ownership and management of FSN regional networks in five of the nation's largest markets: Chicago, San Francisco, New England, Ohio and Florida.