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My BlackBall Origins
My earliest remembrances of African-Americans playing baseball come from my father Rennex James, Sr., who played as a child growing up in Louisana, and carried his love for the game into adulthood. In the early 1960s, I remember him playing in locally organized games in the community, and also at his job’s annual summer picnic. He played up into his 30s and even taught himself to pitch underhand after injuring his shoulder. Dad always had a complete baseball kit. It featured an entire catcher’s set, first baseman’s glove, fielding gloves, balls and bats. I seem to remember there also being bases in the kit.
Verzell's little league photo I began playing organized baseball at the age of five and did so until around the age of 12, when my interest was killed by two coaches my brother Rennis and I didn’t like, as we thought they were racist. After practice one day he and I talked on the way home and decided to quit together. It’s the only time I’ve ever quit a sport during the season.
During the summers of my teen-age years, I worked as landscaper and handyman with my mother’s father, Ruben Williams. He grew up in rural Georgia and was also a huge baseball fan. During those summers we talked about many things, including baseball. I knew of Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson, but my knowledge of Negro League Baseball was pretty limited. When “Papa” found out how ignorant I was about NLB, he looked me square in the eye and promptly enlightened me. There was one thing about “Papa”- if you asked him a question, he would always tell you the truth. He would not lie, even if the truth made him uncomfortable. I respected him greatly for this.
As a working adult, I spent 13 years in the textbook publishing field. I worked as a graphic designer, illustrator, production artist and writer. During this period of my career, I worked on projects involving almost every educational discipline, for nearly every major textbook publisher in the US and some smaller ones as well. On one particular project, we used statistics from the Negro Leagues as the basis for a chapter in a math book. Researching this project increased my knowledge of Negro League Ball and served as the impetus to begin the BlackBall drawing and painting series, which I created during the winter of 1997 and 1998.

Verzell K. James, 8/19/12