December 8, 2002

COLUMN: Bradley's passing signifies end of era
Posted December 8, 2002

They buried Dick Bradley on Saturday afternoon in Benton. And the significance is much greater than a two-paragraph obituary.

Bradley was 84 when he died on Monday. He was the last living Negro League baseball player in Caddo and Bossier parishes. And with his passing, an era has ended.

Bradley and Riley Stewart were local ties to a not-so-proud time in baseball history and American history. A time when opportunity was granted in Major League Baseball on grounds of color and not talent. A time when players such as Bradley and Stewart never got to know how they stacked up against big leaguers.

And now they are both gone, dying nearly two years apart.

The scouting report on Bradley was that he was a one-pitch pitcher. What the scouting report didn't say was that Bradley's fastball would make modern-day scouts drool.

Legendary pitcher Satchel Paige used to say that Bradley's fastball looked like an aspirin tablet. Stewart said Bradley was the hardest thrower he saw during the late '30s and early '40s.

Bradley was discovered pitching for the Benton Eagles as a teenager. His career took him to the Negro Leagues where he pitched for the Kansas City Monarchs for seven seasons.

He joined the Monarchs in 1937. His salary - $36 a month. Eventually, his pay increased to $550 a month. It was hardly A-Rod money, but he wasn't complaining.

His career, though, ended in 1943. He was drafted into the United States Army and an arm injury kept from returning to baseball.

Four years after Bradley played his last baseball game, Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier.

Dick Bradley never knew if he could throw his fastball past Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams.

Baseball could never make up for the missed opportunity that Bradley and other Negro League players suffered. Still, the Baseball Hall of Fame honored Bradley and other Negro Leaguers in 1991. And the Negro League Hall of Fame in Kansas City also brought more attention to players such as Bradley and Stewart in the mid-'90s.

While the attention was given late, their gifts were received early.

All baseball players - black and white - are indebted to the likes of Bradley and Stewart. They are among the players who helped build the game. And for black baseball players, they helped pave the way for today's opportunities.

They are gone now - Bradley and Stewart.

There are no more Negro League voices in Caddo and Bossier parishes.

For those who knew Bradley and Stewart, they are better for having known them. They have an appreciation for those times. And they understand the contributions to both baseball and society they have made.

For those who didn't know Bradley and Stewart, then they may not understand the significance of the lives these men had.

An era has ended.

Voices have been lost.

Memories, though, won't be forgotten.

Scott Ferrell is The Times' sports editor. He can be reached at 459-3299 or by fax at 459-3301; e-mail address: