White Sox behind the scenes: Coordinator of fan experiences Martha Jo Black

White Sox behind the scenes: Coordinator of fan experiences Martha Jo Black
December 24, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Martha Jo Black Facts

I’m listening to: Jay-Z, Beyonce, Miles Davis

Three people I’d take to lunch: “I’d pick my father’s friends: Jerry Reinsdorf, Bill Cosby and Peter O’Malley”

Hobby: Shopping

Last movie watched: ‘Best Man Holiday’

Favorite baseball players met: Dusty Baker, Ken Griffey Jr.

Career if I wasn’t in baseball: Event planner

Photo courtesy of ElliotHarris.com

(Photo courtesy of Dave Durochik)

She’s the person you’d speak to about a U.S. Cellular Field wedding or raking the infield with Roger Bossard. But come November, Martha Jo Black should be able to recommend you to a good local publisher, too.

The White Sox coordinator of fan experiences, Black will see a longtime project realized when her book on her father, ‘Joe Black, More than a Dodger’ is published in the fall.

While the story could feature countless angles, from Joe Black’s 1952 National League Rookie of the Year award to his World Series Game 1 to his friendship with former roommate Jackie Robinson or his post-baseball career, Martha Black has chosen to focus on a more personal aspect -- their relationship. Joe Black, who died in 2002 after a battle with prostate cancer, raised his daughter by himself and now Martha Black wants to tell the story.

“It’s not about my father playing baseball, it’s about my father being a single parent,” Martha Black said. “For me, African American men don’t get a good reputation about being good parents and my father was a hell of a father to me.”

Joe Black was a pretty good ballplayer too.

But his playing career hardly defines him, said longtime friend and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Reinsdorf considers himself fortunate for the chance to become friends with Joe Black, whom he idolized as a boy.

[White Sox Behind The Scenes: Jeremy Haber, assistant to the GM]

“We hit it off instantly because, of course, he was one of my boyhood heroes,” Reinsdorf said. “I was actually thrilled to meet him. We just became very good friends. We saw each other a lot. Went to lunch a lot. Talked a lot. He had a lot of great stories.…The list of things he has done is terrific. He just touched a lot of people.”

A World War II veteran, Black was 28 when he first donned a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform in 1952. He roomed with Robinson and went 15-4 with a 2.15 ERA in 56 games that season and in October, became the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game when he pitched a complete game in the series opener against the New York Yankees.

Black’s playing career ended in 1957, but that was only the beginning.

A graduate of Morgan State University, Black became a teacher in New Jersey and then was hired by Greyhound as an executive and moved to Chicago. Not satisfied with his role, Black asked for more responsibility and eventually worked his way up to a senior vice president title.

He also wrote a column for Ebony magazine, made an appearance on TV’s Cosby Show and worked to create Major League Baseball’s BAT (Baseball Assistance Team) program, which assists longtime baseball players and personnel.

[White Sox behind the scenes: Dan Fabian, director of baseball operations]

But Martha Black said her father was much more.

“He was like ‘I want to give my child more than just a check,'” Martha Black said. “I think my father learned a lot from his mother and his siblings, his sisters especially. He was like ‘I can do this because she needs more than just my money. She needs my time, love and loyalty and I want to show her things.'”

Martha Black, who moved to Chicago and began to work for the White Sox in 1993, said Reinsdorf was behind her “120 percent” when she informed him she wanted to write a book about her father. The two have formed a special bond over the years. When Joe Black passed away, Reinsdorf was the second person Martha Black called.

“You hear a lot about single mothers,” Reinsdorf said. “Here’s a black man, a single father, who raised his daughter and made sure she got educated. That’s an unusual story. But he knew everybody. He’s pals with (Bill) Cosby. It’s hard to find somebody that didn’t know him.”

The list of celebrity friends includes former Bulls star Michael Jordan and many more. Now, through a project Martha Black said has helped her with the grieving process, she has an opportunity to celebrate her father’s life.

“He knew and loved the game of baseball, but he also knew and loved the game of life,” Martha Black said. “He always wanted to know people.”