Pride (born March 18, 1938 in Sledge, Mississippi) is one of
the few African-American musicians to have had success in the
country music industry. In 1993, Pride was inducted into the
Grand Ole Opry, 26 years after he first played as a guest. He
was awarded the prestigious Academy of Country Music's Pioneer
Award in 1994 and elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame
loved music, and taught himself to play the guitar, but his
life-long dream was to become a professional baseball player
-- and that's how he came to Helena in 1960, as a member of
the East Helena Smelterites.
Pride pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American
League. He pitched well, and, in 1953, he signed a contract
with the Boise Yankees, the Class C farm team of the New York
Yankees. During that season, an injury hampered his pitching,
and he was sent to the Yankees' Class D team in Fond du Lac,
Wisconsin. Later that season, while in the Negro Leagues with
the Louisville Clippers, he and another player (Jesse Mitchell),
were traded to the Birmingham Black Barons for a team bus!
for several other minor league teams. Pride appeared to be advancing
to a career in baseball, but the U.S. Army derailed this. After
serving two years in the military, he tried to return to baseball.
Though hindered by the injury to his throwing arm, Pride briefly
played for the Missoula Timberjacks of the Pioneer League, but
It was then
that Kes Rigler, manager of the East Helena Smelterites, hired
Charley. It was a good move. (the smelter kept 18 jobs open
for ball players, regulating their days off so they could have
a team). Not only did Charley make good money working at the
smelter, he helped boost the Smelterites winning average.
discovered that Charley could sing as well. Rigler paid him
$10 to sing over the PA system for fifteen minutes before games,
which was the same amount he got paid for playing the game.
Charley's singing boosted attendance...
games, Charley would play at various local nightspots, sometimes
as a solo and other times as a member of a combo...