Earlier this week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick came to Springfield to celebrate Black History Month with students at the William DeBerry Elementary School.
The governor read the class “A Home Run for Bunny.” It is the true story of a young baseball team from Springfield and Bunny Taliaferro, its only African American player, which won the New England championship series in 1934.
“I never liked Bunny Taliaferro. How could you with a name like Bunny. He wasn’t even Italian,” he read.
Patrick then asked the class if anybody was Italian.
“I have an Italian grandson,” he noted with some laughter among the students. He continued reading.
“His real name was Ernest, but everyone called hime Bunny because all he did was run. Everywhere, to and from school, on errands for his mom and dad. He even ran around the block while waiting for his friends to come out and play,” Patrick read.
The book chronicles the team’s encounter with and response to racial prejudice when it went south to compete in the Eastern Regionals in Gastonia, North Carolina. Governor Patrick calls it a powerful story, not just because it is local, but because it is timeless.
“It’s a story about courage, teamwork and common cause. And how ordinary people can do some extraordinary things,” Patrick said. “It was a very moving story as well, particularly so having the team captain present.”
That team captain – at the school for the reading – was Tony King, the sole surviving member of that 1934 team. Also joining the governor was Richard Andersen, the book’s author. He says the idea to write the book came from one of his former students at Springfield College.