Black historical moment in sports

By Brenda Daniel

Ralph Allen (Scoonie) Garr (December 12, 1945) was born in Monroe, Louisiana and was home grown right here in Ruston, on the “East End area of the city.”

Ralph was the fifth oldest of eight children born to Jesse and Annie Mae Garr. His love and long history of baseball started in his neighborhood as a child at seven years old. When of age he earned a chance to play with renowned coach Wilbur Ellis, who then had a city league that played various teams from neighboring cities. His relationship with Coach Ellis and passion for the game, built his fast-growing reputation as a skilled ball player at his high school, Lincoln High, and then on to play for a semi-pro squad that Ellis coached.

Ralph is an alumni of Grambling State, and his initial entrance to the University (then Grambling College) was through a work aid program. Although Ellis was convinced Garr had the goods for a great ball player, the odds for him to obtain a scholarship were great, as some (including “Prez,” Ralph W. Jones, President of Grambling College at the time) thought he was too small to make the team.

At that time ball players would be invited to participate in the work aid program during the time they tried out for
the team. If they exceled and made it, they would then be offered a scholarship as it was with Garr, who went on to major in Recreation Administration. In 1967 as a second baseman, Garr led the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics with a record .585 batting average to lead his team to a 35-1 regular season mark. By the time he finished school, he was well noticed. In his senior year at Grambling, his performance led him to be featured as “Faces in the Crowd” a Sports Illustrated column,
and in more current times he was named to the College Baseball Hall of Fame, in 2013.

Just out of college, the plane of success took off for Garr landing his first stop in Austin, Texas playing for a short time with the Class AA Texas League. From there it was a few other short lay overs where he sharpened his skills with a few other minor leagues. For his first major league he landed with the Atlanta Braves, where he was picked in the 3 rd round and playing his first game September 3, 1968. The Atlanta Braves, and Chicago White Sox, both had significant roles in Garr’s game and he closed out for a final landing at the Los Angeles Angels in 1980. His career highlights include Atlanta Brave All-Star in (1974), NL Batting Champion (1974), and the Braves Hall of Fame (2006).

In a recent phone interview with Garr on January 25, 2023, he says he is doing well and still very much connected to the game. “Dusty Baker (Manager, Houston Astros) and I have been good friends for many years, and I’m now working with him doing some scouting, looking for new talent.”

When asked how much change he has witnessed in the game since his hay day, he further stated, “… things have opened up to the world more; and unlike when I came along, great Black players are coming from countries all over to play in the U.S., the competition is greater now for Black players in this country.”