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Downs Field recalled in oral histories

Thursday, December 3, 2020 by Tai Moses

Dick ‘Lefty’ O’Neal, Lawrence ‘Fireball’ Tucker, Willie ‘Big Ray’ Hale, Lawrence ‘Ditney’ Johnson, and Allen ‘Bam Bam’ Hicks, who have played at Downs Field. (Photo by Cindy Elizabeth)

Twenty oral histories about Downs Field are headed to the Austin History Center’s African American Community Archives and the Huston-Tillotson University Archives. The oral histories were collected during Forklift Danceworks’ Take Me Out to Downs Field, a yearlong residency that delved into the history of the century-old site, a Texas Historic Landmark that was once home to Negro Baseball League teams like the Austin Black Senators and the Austin Palominos. Willie Ray Hale, a former bat boy for the Austin Greyhounds and the Austin Indians, whose story is among the oral histories donated to the archives, said, “It’s a part of history that a lot of people don’t know anything about, and it’s right there in their neighborhood. I lived it and wasn’t thinking about history when I was a kid. I was just out having a good time. It brought people together, and people need that now.”

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