How Lucky got his nickname…
Call me Lucky — everyone else does. They called me Elijah Daniel Miller when I was
born in 1906. Then, when I was 6, I scooped up a balled-up handkerchief on the way
to school. Guess what fell out? A $5 bill! “I’m gonna call you Lucky from now on!” my
My friends in Bermuda Hundred, Virginia, called me Lucky, too, ‘specially when I got a
hit. (I was better with a glove than a bat.) We played baseball every chance we got. The
good Lord didn’t bless me with the fastest bat or the strongest arm, but I’m a pretty
good rememberer. When I was little, I learned to say the ABC’s backward as fast as you
can say ‘em regular: ZYXWVUTSRQPONMLKJIHGFEDCBA!
Old folks used to holler at us for playin’ ball on Sunday, the Lord’s day. But we got so
good they started comin’ out to see us. One day, a coupla white boys asked if they could
play for us. Blacks and whites didn’t play together much in Virginia in 1918, but I said,
I got a real ball from the Grays!
I’d drive the fellas in a Model T touring car I called Betsy. I started driving when I was about 14. No one worried about driver’s licenses then.
When I was 16, I took my cousin to see the famous Homestead Grays play in Richmond. They was the best ballplayers I ever saw. Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth were pretty good, but they never beat the Homestead Grays. Never got the chance. The Major Leagues wouldn’t let blacks play, so we started the Negro Leagues.
Lotsa cities had teams — New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Homestead, Pa., where the Grays started as a steelworkers team in the early 1900s. They played up to three games a day against other black teams or white amateur teams, sleepin’ and eatin’ on the bus when hotels and restaurants wouldn’t take ’em. In the winter, blacks and whites played together in South America, where color didn’t matter so much.