The Diamonds of Montgomery’s Black Sandlot Stars
Big Train Founder Bruce Adams and
Bethesda Community Base Ball Club Board Member Billy Gordon discuss the rich history of Montgomery County’s
Black sandlot baseball, a story of our Black community’s extraordinary resilience and entrepreneurship
in the face of segregation, in a 2021 Montgomery History presentation, “In Search of the
Ballfields of Montgomery’s Black Communities” which can be viewed here. Read Bruce's "Hidden Diamonds"
article in the May/June 2022 issue of Bethesda Magazine here.
On Sunday June 12, the Bethesda Big
Train will celebrate the legacy of Montgomery’s Black sandlot teams with the First Annual Clarence
“Pint” Isreal Juneteenth Classic. In the Black sandlot tradition of church, a good meal, and a
ballgame, gates will open at 12:30 p.m. with a pre-game ceremony at 1:45 p.m. and first pitch of the Big Train
game with the Gaithersburg Giants at 2 p.m. Please click here for tickets.
In the last half of the nineteenth
century, when Blacks made up four of every ten Montgomery residents, formerly enslaved people organized more than
three dozen communities. Along with churches and schools, baseball became the center of civic life in these
communities in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Dozens of these communities, from Emory Grove to
Lyttonsville and Scotland to Sandy Spring, organized sandlot teams. “On a Sunday afternoon, the entire
African American community was there,” Billy Gordon, one of Rockville’s finest athletes, has
explained. “The folks who had gone to church were there. But everybody else who loved the game showed up
from infants to the elderly. It was quite a scene. The preacher would be at the game, and the bootlegger would be
there dispensing beverages.”