After playing for a couple years in the Negro Leagues, Rock Hill native Carl Long is recognized as becoming the first black player in the Carolina League. Long was born in 1935 in Rock Hill, SC. His father, William Long, played baseball locally including for the all-black Rock Hill Blue Jays. Carl remembers growing up in Rock Hill in the 1940s playing neighborhood baseball and watching the local all-white professional baseball team, the Rock Hill Chiefs. The Chiefs’ star player (and future MLB star), Dusty Rhodes, recognized young Carl in the stands from attending games and would play catch with Long after the games.
I was just a kid, but ol’ Dusty knew I could play. I had a rifle for an arm.Carl Long on playing catch as a kid with Dusty Rhodes
When Major League Baseball’s color barrier was broken in 1947, some Negro Leagues teams began to cease operations as Minor League teams across the country began to officially accept the integration of players. One of those teams was the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro American League. The Stars moved to Nashville after the 1950 season. In 1951, the Stars recruited a 16-year old Carl Long to their roster. The Nashville team folded before the completion of their 1951 season. It was during this short period with the Stars that Long credits his manager and Negro Leagues’ legend, Oscar Charleston, for teaching him how to play in the outfield. Charleston would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.
After his brief stint with the Stars, Long joined the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Southern League from 1952-1953. In 1953, Long was selected to play in the East-West Negro Leagues All-Star game, representing Birmingham on the East team. During his time with Birmingham, Long played alongside future Hall of Famer Willie Mays and future country music legend Charley Pride. One of Long’s opposing pitchers was Dennis “Bose” Biddle. Biddle recalled two notable hitters in the Negro Leagues during his time pitching – Hank Aaron and Carl Long. Biddle and Long became best friends after retiring from baseball.
Long hit a ball at old Comiskey Park in Chicago that probably is still going.Bose Biddle on Carl Long hitting a home run off him in the Negro Leagues
After his 1953 season with the Black Barons, Long was signed by the Major League Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates assigned Long to the St. Jean Canadians of the Provincial League for the 1954 season. Long would hit .275 with 20 HR and 80 RBI for the Canadians, ranking 3rd in the league in HR. In 1955, Long split the season between the Phoenix Stars and Billings Mustangs. Long was assigned to the Kinston Eagles of the Carolina League in 1956.
Carl is recognized with breaking the color barrier in the Carolina League in 1956, becoming the league’s first black player. Other black players joined the Carolina League in 1956, including future MLB stars Leon Wagner and Curt Flood. Playing for the Kinston, NC team in 1956, Long would hit .291 with 18 HR and 111 RBI. His 111 RBI remain a Kinston team record (it was matched in 1987 by Cleveland Indians’ prospect Casey Webster). Long was selected to the Carolina League All-Star team for his performance.
In 1957, the Pirates moved Long to their Beaumont affiliate in the Big State League. During the fall of 1957, while playing for the Tigres de Mexico of the Mexican League, Long injured his shoulder. The injury resulted in Long no longer being able to play baseball professionally. After leaving the sport he loved, Long and his new wife Ella settled down in Kinston, NC.
During his years after retiring from baseball, Long took a job as a bus driver with Trailways. With his hiring, Long is recognized as the first black bus driver for the company. Long also became the first black Deputy Sheriff in Lenoir County and was later appointed as the first black detective for the Kinston Police Department.
In 1999, the Carolina League Kinston Indians honored Long by creating Carl Long Day which became an annual celebration of the Negro Leagues. In 2003, Long was inducted into the Kinston Professional Baseball Hall of Fame. In his later years, Long dedicated his life to working with youth and teaching the values of faith, determination and overcoming obstacles. Carl Long passed away in 2015, but his legacy still lives in Kinston, NC and on the pages of his autobiography A Game of Faith.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Black Baseball’s National Showcase (Larry Lester)
The History Makers
The Herald article (Andrew Dys)
Las Vegas Review-Journal article (Ron Kantowski)
Dabney S. Lancaster Community College article (Judy Clark)
The Sporting News Official Baseball Guide 1958
NPR Audio Portrait: The Negro Leagues