Phillies honor Darby Hilldales' legend

Phillies recognize Darby Hilldales' legend

YEADON, Pa. -- Raleigh "Biz" Mackey and Judy Johnson were alive again. Their exploits as members of the Darby Hilldales were living in the thoughts and memories of about 500 people who gathered on Saturday for a special dedication of a historic sign, honoring the 1925 Negro League World Series champions.

The project took some time to put together, almost 10 years. But the blue metal historic marker, commemorating where the Hilldales once played, on Chester and Cedar Streets in Yeadon -- which lies just outside of Philadelphia -- was unveiled.

Witnessing the ceremony was Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson, former Phillies Gold Glove outfielder Garry Maddox and Phillies director of community relations Gene Dias. The Phillies organization played a major role in the historic sign marker, financially as well as their overt support of the project.

Besides a healthy gathering, the ceremony also featured the four living members of the Philadelphia Stars Negro League team -- Bill Cash, Mahlon Duckett, Stanley Glenn and Harold Gould.

"For years, it's always been a great joy to sit and talk with members of the Stars," Thompson said. "We always relate stories. It was great to see these guys here today, because they played with and knew some of the men on this Hilldale team, I'm told. I'm glad these guys are still around to witness things like this."

You'd like to think that Johnson was watching from somewhere and smiling. You'd want to believe that Mackey was looking on with knowing nods. That after all their toil and sacrifice, they're great achievement with the Darby Hilldales was finally honored.

Their sacrifice certainly wasn't lost on Dias.

"You can't lose track of what they did, and the Phillies are very proud to be a part of it," Dias said. "The significance of this historic sign and what these men did can't be overstated. If it wasn't for these guys, I wouldn't be where I am today with the Phillies. The players today owe these men a large debt of gratitude. Hats off to the community for putting on such a noble gesture."

Maddox feels there has to be a connection to the past.

"I know I wouldn't have had a Major League career if not for what these guys went through," said Maddox, easily one of the fan favorites, who autographed almost everything put in front of him. "Events like this are good, because it keep history fresh and right in front of us. Sometimes we lose that. But by retelling their stories over and over again, more and more people will know about the Negro League and what these men endured. It will make people more interested. It's a story that has to be told."

The ceremony brought in relatives associated with the Hilldales from various areas of the country. Ray Mackey, the great grandnephew of Biz Mackey, flew up to the ceremony from Houston to be apart of the festivities. Mackey accepted the Hall of Fame plaque in the name of his uncle at Biz's induction ceremony this summer in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The Darby Hilldales were one of the greatest baseball franchises to ever play in the Philadelphia area, with eight Hall of Famers, Mackey and Louis Santop the most recent as part of the 2006 class.

"My uncle was someone who persevered, despite racial banishment. But his love of the game was so great, he left his roots in Texas to pursue his dream of playing baseball," said Ray Mackey, a 41-year-old businessman. "The day my uncle was inducted into the Hall of Fame, I brought my two sons with me and it brought tears to my eyes. My uncle is in a place, standing alongside Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. But the way I see it, guys like my uncle paved the way. If it wasn't for people like him, there wouldn't have been a Jackie Robinson."

Also glowing from the ceremony was John Bossong, a 43-year-old businessman who spearheaded the Hilldales' historic sign. He fought a 10-year battle, with the culmination of his arduous journey coming on Saturday.

"The Phillies were a huge help in putting this together, and we also got major help from a number of local businesses as well," Bossong said. "My goal all along was for people to realize some good can come from this area. This is a dream come true."

For one afternoon, legends lived again on a blue background with yellow lettering.

Joseph Santoliquito is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.