Charley Pride, singer and ballplayer | TheFencePost.com

Charley Pride, singer and ballplayer

Everybody who loves country music knows that Charley Pride is a country western singer. One of 11 children, born in Sledge, Miss., in 1938, to a sharecropper and his wife, this guitar-playing singer and his songs hit the charts in the 1970s. In the mid-’70s, he became very popular, appearing on various TV shows, and became the best seller for RCA records since Elvis Presley.

But many fans do not know that Charley first sought his fame and fortune on the baseball diamond. Charley Pride pitched for the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro League in 1952. In 1953, he pitched for the Class C New York Yankees farm club in Boise, Idaho. He also played ball in Fond du Lac, Wis., and was on the roster for the Louisville Clippers and the Birmingham Black Barons. Due to a pitching arm injury, his professional baseball days ended. His knowledge and love of the game never ended.

Charley joined the Army and served his country for two years. In 1966, Chet Atkins recorded him for RCA records, giving him his big break in the professional country music lineup. In 1967, he was the first black person to play on the stage at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry since 1925 when DeFord Bailey, a harmonica player, took the stage. That same year, 1967, Charley appeared on the “Lawrence Welk Show.” In 1971 and 1972, he received the Country Music Award for Entertainer of the Year. His most requested song in 1971 was “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” which became his signature tune. In 1981, he recorded “Roll on Mississippi,” now Mississippi’s official song.

He and his wife, Rozene, whom he met while playing baseball, were married in 1956. The Prides make their home in Dallas, Texas. They have two grown sons, Kraig and Dion, and a daughter, Angela. Their son, Kraig, a professional singer, changed his name to Carleton Pride, found his own style of music and travels with his band. Rozene and Charley have two grandsons, Carlton and Malachi. Charley celebrated his birthday in March 2010. He is 72 years old.

Still a lover of baseball, the Dallas Morning News on March 10, 2010, printed a story about the possibility of Charley Pride buying an interest in his favorite team, the Texas Rangers. Charlie works out with them every spring at their training camp with the Cactus League in Surprise, Ariz., 25 miles outside of Phoenix.

Charley uses his musical flair as a singer to continue to create income for his investments. Although he never made it as a professional ballplayer, he still enjoys the excitement of the game. At the Texas Rangers ballpark, he is recognized by the crowd. He smiles and waves, gladly finding his seat. Standing for the singing of the “National Anthem” with his fellow baseball fans, he routinely awaits the ending, which is always followed by the umpire’s stooping to brush off home plate, and shouting the two traditional words, “Play Ball!” And the game begins.

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Only in America could this skinny black kid, from a poor Mississippi Delta cotton-pickin’ town, fight his way through life using his pitching talent onto the baseball diamonds, and his singing talent all the way to the gloried stage of the Grand Ole Opry and onto other world entertainment stages.

Charley Pride will be coming to Colorado soon. He is the headliner for the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, Colo.; his performance is scheduled for Sept. 1. Make plans to attend the state fair, and purchase tickets for his concert. Sit back, relax and enjoy one of the very best old-time, country western, music entertainers you will ever hear, “Mr. Charley Pride.”