Alfred "Slick" Surratt (1922–2010)
Alfred “Slick” Surratt was a baseball player in the Negro Leagues in the late 1940s and early 1950s. After his playing career, he spent decades as a welder for the Ford Motor Company. He stayed involved in baseball, however, through his involvement in the creation and development of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Missouri.
Alfred Surratt was born on November 9, 1922, in Danville (Yell County). A baseball player from his earliest days, he moved to Kansas City, Missouri, to live with his father at the end of the eighth grade. Not yet twenty years old when the United States entered World War II, Surratt served in the South Pacific during the war but was able to continue playing baseball, including against a team with the legendary Joe DiMaggio. Surratt saw lots of action during the war. While serving as a bulldozer operator helping clear the airfield at Guadalcanal, he sometimes had to deflect bullets by raising the bulldozer’s plow head.
After the war, the left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder played for the Detroit Stars from 1947 until 1949, and then for the Kansas City Monarchs from 1949 to 1952. Known for his speed, he was an excellent bunter who joked that, if he hit a ground ball that bounced more than once before it got to the fielder, he could not be thrown out. In addition to his seasons in the Negro Leagues, Surratt—like many players of the era, both black and white—did some off-season barnstorming. On at least one occasion, he was included in a group headed by baseball great Satchel Paige on a tour that included a game in Yankee Stadium.
When his playing days ended in 1952, Surratt began working for the Ford Motor Company. A welder, he was the first African-American skilled laborer in the company’s Claycomo, Missouri, plant. He retired at the age of seventy-nine on Valentine’s Day in 2002, fifty-one years to the day after he was first hired.
He coached Little League baseball for fifteen years and later was a founding member, fundraiser, and member of the board of directors of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Surratt gained some celebrity late in life when he appeared in Ken Burns’s 1994 PBS documentary Baseball.
Surratt and his wife, Tommie Louvenia Surratt, had one son, Alfred Jr.
At the end of his life, Surratt suffered from both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. He died in a nursing home in Kansas City on February 15, 2010. He is buried in the Leavenworth National Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kansas.
For additional information:
“Alfred ‘Slick’ Surratt.” http://www.slicksurratt.com/memorial/home.html (accessed November 17, 2020).
Markusen, Bruce. “Cooperstown Confidential: Three Departures.” Hardball Times, February 26, 2010. http://www.hardballtimes.com/cooperstown-confidential-the-oneonta-tigers-jim-bibby-and-slick-surratt/ (accessed November 17, 2020).
Vincent, Fay. “Slick Surratt’s Legacy of Joy.” Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2010.
William H. Pruden III
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