Soulful Softball Sunday honors legacy of Pumpsie Green

A photo from Soulful Softball Sunday 2019. From left to right, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton (far left) stands with Keisha Green Joyner, Kennedy High graduate and daughter of Elijah "Pumpsie" Green; Pumpsie's wife Marie; Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia; and Rodney Alamo Brown. (Photo by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

Some called it a record turnout for Soulful Softball Sunday. Organizers estimated roughly 2,500 local community members came to the annual grassroots gathering.  For a fifth year at Nicholl Park in Richmond, Soulful Softball Sunday, co-founded by Rodney Alamo Brown and Antwon Cloird, brought locals together for soul food, entertainment, resources, good vibes and a sun-soaked day of softball.

This year’s event paid tribute to the recently passed Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, the first African American player in Boston Red Sox history who was raised in Richmond.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, joined by Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton, the county’s first ever African American district attorney, honored Pumpsie by proclaiming Aug. 25, 2019 as Elijah “Pumpsie” Green day in Contra Costa County.

The Red Sox organization donated gloves to give away at the event in honor of Pumpsie.

Pumpsie’s daughter, Keisha Green Joyner, threw the first pitch alongside famed musician and Richmond native Eric EQ Young from the former R&B and funk band Con Funk Shun. Joyner, a Kennedy High graduate, was joined by family members, including Pumpsie’s wife, Marie, in honoring the legendary ball player.

“It’s important to recognize history,” Gioia said. “We all know who Jackie Robinson is, because he was the first African American to play Major League Baseball in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But a lot of us don’t know it took 12 years for Major League Baseball to fully integrate. It took 12 years before the last team, the Boston Red Sox, integrated. And so today we want to recognize the family of Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, who grew up in Richmond, went to Richmond High School, got his start locally with the Stockton Ports and Oakland Oaks, went on to play for the Red Sox and then came back and continued to serve his community as a teacher and coach at Berkeley High School for 20 years.”

Many other community members honored today, including local high school scholarship winners: The Jerrold Hatchett Award went to Jamie Tianero and Jason Varela; Anthony “Rook” Jones received the Khiari Neal Award; the Berth Owens Award went to Charles Modeste and Oraiana Range; Jordan White and Alia Walker-Griffin earned the Minnie Lou Nichols Award; the George Livingston Award went to Joseph Valenzuela and  Zsariah Simmons; the Mary P. Head Award went to Ruben Calvario and Camryn Vickers;  and Jalaal Dirbas, Tyre Reed and Jomari Robinson were honored with the William “Jake” Randolph Award.

Recent local high school graduates were honored with college scholarships at Soulful Softball Sunday on April 25, 2019.

A number of individuals and organizations were also honored for their community service, including Reisha Graves, William Harris, Le Damien Flowers, More Than A Game, Mark Rayon,Joey Slimmer,  Dr.Plik Plok, Nichelle Holmes, Kristin Killian Lobos, George Brown, Evan LG Francis, Naj K. Smith, Doria Robinson, Cashinda Wilson, Carole Johnson and Monique Mc Morris.

“We want to give them love and appreciation of their hard work and due diligence,” Brown said.

The cherry on top? The Richmond Elite won the California Softball Classic against the L.A. All Stars, meaning the trophy has returned to Richmond.