Bob Motley is the only living umpire of Negro League Baseball. A shot-calling legend, Motley is known for his splits, lunges and dramatic calls at the plate. It was Motley who made the game-time decisions with Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Willie Mays on the field. Bob Motley was not only a Negro League pioneer, he was also a member of the honorable Montford Point Marines of WWII.
Motley was born in Autaugaville, Alabama near Selma, in 1923. The Ku Klux Klan was heavy in his town and there were frequent memories of their actions on the black townspeople. While working for a local hotel in the town of Anniston, Motley had his first acquaintances with baseball player of the minor leagues. He knew he would one day play baseball like the gentleman he admired as a young man.
On May 21, 1943, Motley enlisted in the U.S. Army. He would be among the first group of black Marines to serve; the Montford Point Marines. He was honorably discharged in 1946 after the war. Like many early black soldiers, Motley fought for his country on dangerous grounds then returned home to a place of bigotry and racism. Even though he served time with the decorated pioneering Montford Point Marines, he was still privy to the ‘whites only’ Jim Crow laws of the south.
When he joined the Negro Leagues as an umpire, Motley faced a different challenge; he would ride along with the players on away games, and was forced to answer to them on his calls in previous games. In one instance, Motley called a strikeout on Hank Bayliss of the Kansas City Monarchs. Bayliss was so upset, he started by cursing Motley, then bumping him and later refusing to retire to the lockers. That was followed by a later attempt by Bayliss to stab Motley with a knife on the bus.
Motley was a diehard fan of the game and despite any animosity expressed by players both black or white, he continued to umpire the Negro Leagues for 25 years. Though much of his memorabilia was discarded before he realized its worth, he kept a few baseballs with special dates and notes on them to remember the experience.
In 2012, Motley received the President’s Congressional Medal of Honor. As he looks to celebrate his 90th birthday this month, Motley reminds baseball fans about his release entitled “Ruling Over Monarchs, Giants & Stars: True Tales of Breaking Barriers, Umpiring Baseball Legends, and Wild Adventures in the Negro Leagues” with foreward by friend, Dionne Warwick.
Bob Motley currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum in Kansas City, MO. He lives with Pearline, his wife of sixty years. His son, Byron Motley, has captured his father’s legacy in his television own documentary, The Negro Leagues: An American Legacy.
Watch video of Bob Motley recalling his time an a Negro League umpire below.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
1 of 25
2 of 25
3 of 25
4 of 25
5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
5 of 25
6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
6 of 25
7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
7 of 25
8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
8 of 25
9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
9 of 25
10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
10 of 25
11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
11 of 25
12. Late nights mornings
12 of 25
13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
13 of 25
14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
14 of 25
15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
15 of 25
16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
16 of 25
17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
17 of 25
18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
18 of 25
19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
19 of 25
20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
20 of 25
21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
21 of 25
22. Claudia Jordan: ....
22 of 25
23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
23 of 25
24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
24 of 25
25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
25 of 25