Cardinals first African American pitcher honored with Living Legend Award

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(KTVI)- At 90-years-old, many people would have enough stories to fill a book. But no one's book would be quite like Reverend William Greason.

Rev. Greason is a World War II veteran who played in the Negro Baseball League and pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals. He has been honored with the Living Legend Award from the Negro League Baseball Association.

CNN's Nick Valencia reports on how Greason lives up to his title.

"Those were the good ole days."

Bill Greason, 90,  has had a lot of memorable days and historic ones too. Greason is a Marine Corps combat veteran, who says he's blessed. He did not expect to live past the age of 25.

"When I went into the Corps I was on Iwo Jima. I prayed and asked God, if he saved me, whatever......whatever he wanted me to do, I would do it."

His prayers were answered. Greason eventually got off the island, but it's where he ended up that was unexpected. He is one of the only negro league baseball players still alive.

"I never dreamed that I would have been a baseball player. Nobody taught me how to play... It was a gift."

He shared that gift with friend and teammate Willie Mays. Together, in 1948, the two won the Negro League World Series with the Birmingham Black Barons.

He was a pitcher with a sharp curve.

"I had a good downer. I threw overhand, ya know. It'd fall off the table, yeah."

He even had a stint as a Major Leaguer with the St. Louis Cardinals as the teams first black pitcher.

But later, Greason moved from the mound to the pulpit.

Greason says the church is his true calling.

"It's a joy to stand here to be able to speak to people. You're looking around, the choir behind you...everything's going pretty good."

In 1963, Greason was a member at the 16th Street Baptist Church. He reflected on the day that those four little girls were killed and dozens were injured.

"Anger. We were angry - of course we were because they were using fire hoses on people. Then they brought dogs in like we were animals or something. That would anger anybody!"

The violent attack sparked unrest and the incident stands today as a flash point in the Civil Rights Movement.

"This is the fire hose they used on people here in Birmingham. The dogs that they used. Homes fried, burned."

These days as a minister, it's the divine spirit that keeps him going.

Reverend . . .baseball revolutionary.....and war hero....a pretty interesting life by any standards.

"A few more words from the Lord. That's all I want. Just to stand a few more times and say something for him."



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