Charley Pride, Negro Leagues veteran and country music trailblazer, dead of COVID complications

Charley Pride, a three-time Grammy winner, has died.
Photo: Getty Images

You know Charley Pride, the country singer. The three-time Grammy winner recorded over 40 No. 1 hit country songs and became the genre’s first Black superstar. But before his music career, Pride was a professional baseball player.

Pride made his Negro League debut in 1953, pitching for the Memphis Red Sox. In 1956, he pitched in a Negro League All-Star Game against Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and other Black stars. Pride would play in the Negro Leagues and Minor leagues until 1960.

While Pride was playing professional baseball, he was drafted into the Army in 1956. Stationed in Fort Carson, CO, he served as quartermaster and pitched on the Fort’s baseball team where he won an All-Army Championship.

Pride’s last season in baseball came in 1960 for the East Helena Smelterites. The team manager noticed Pride’s singing ability and paid him $10 to sing for 15 minutes before the first pitch of every game. The event brought more fans to the semi-pro stadium in Montana and doubled Pride’s $10 game check.

After his baseball and music career, Pride served as a board member of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum — who gave Pride the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Pride also became a part owner of the Texas Rangers in 2010.

Charley Pride died of complications from COVID-19. He was 86.

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