Little League® International mourns the passing of Carl Johnson, a member of the 1955 Cannon Street YMCA Little League all-stars from Charleston, S.C. He was 72.
A native of Charleston, Mr. Johnson was introduced to baseball as a young child. By the time he was 12, his interest had grown into a passion and his talent had been honed while playing third base as a member of the Cannon Street YMCA Little League program.
In the summer of 1955, 14 boys from the Cannon Street YMCA Little League were looking forward to entering the Little League Tournament, along with tens of thousands of other boys in all U.S. states and several other countries. Like all Little League players their age, they knew the Little League Baseball® World Series concluded in Williamsport, Pa.
At the time, there were 62 chartered Little League programs in South Carolina. The only league with African American players was the Cannon Street YMCA Little League. Until then, no South Carolina teams with African-American players had entered the postseason tournament.
Each of the 61 other leagues refused to play the Cannon Street YMCA team. Little League International responded immediately, informing the other leagues that racism would not be tolerated, and that they would have to play, or forfeit.
Although the Cannon Street YMCA Little League played a full regular season of Little League ball, and selected an all-star team, it was prevented by Little League policy from entering the playoffs because no other leagues in the state were willing to play.
Despite not being able to advance in the tournament by way of its play on the field, Little League invited the Cannon Street team to Williamsport for the World Series. The team experienced all the things any other Little League World Series participant would, except it did not play a game.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the World Series event and last week the South Carolina Department of Archives and History dedicated a marker at Harmon Field, the team’s home field.
After graduation from Burke High School in 1961, Mr. Johnson relocated to Point Pleasant, N.J., and took a job as a car salesman. After 20 years in the automobile sales industry, he and his family moved to Lake Como, N.J., where he owned and operated Carl Johnson Car Care.
Mr. Johnson is survived by his wife, Louise Johnson; sister Marie McMullin; daughter Michele Johnson; and grandchildren Kaysonne Anderson and Keyana Johnson. He was predeceased by his parents; brother Nathaniel Johnson; sister Nancy Johnson; and son Carl Johnson Jr.