In 1961, Bob Gibson, Curt Flood and Bill White would leave Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., after a Cardinals home spring training game, walk across the street and get into an orange station wagon that would take them to another part of town where they stayed in a boarding house. The rest of their Cardinals teammates went nearby to their spring training accommodations at the swank Vinoy Hotel along the waterfront.
St. Petersburg was a segregated city and the Vinoy didn’t allow any blacks to stay at the hotel.
In his new book “Under One Roof,” author Adam Henig tells the story of how Dr. Ralph Wimbish, a physician, NAACP leader and civil rights activist, led a successful effort to end segregated housing during spring training in St. Petersburg.
The book is available in paperback and on Kindle at this Amazon link. It would make a unique and important addition to a Cardinals fan’s library.
Henig effectively balances the stories of Wimbish and the baseball teams, Cardinals and Yankees, that trained in St. Petersburg.
Reading the book is like taking a journey in a time machine. Henig gives the reader a deep sense of what it was like to be in St. Petersburg in 1961 and how segregation was so strongly in force.
_ When author Alex Haley arrived in St. Petersburg from New York to do a magazine story on Wimbish, Haley was directed at the airport to a black cab driver because white drivers weren’t permitted to accept black passengers.
_ Wimbish’s daughter, Barbara, recalled that one of the few integrated restaurants in St. Petersburg was a Jewish deli.
Henig also does an admirable job of describing the pain and humiliation felt by black ballplayers.
The author is a first-rate researcher and his writing is vivid.
This book will help every reader appreciate the courage of White, who joined Wimbish in taking a stand again racism and injustice.
White remains an underappreciated Cardinal. He was an all-star for his hitting and fielding. He’s an all-star as a person, too.
Henig’s book should be required reading for every member of the committee that votes to elect individuals to the Cardinals Hall of Fame. White should be a shoo-in for what he did to bring the Cardinals under one roof in segregated St. Petersburg.
Previously: Bill White interviewed about autobiography