William Greason is one of the last surviving members of the Negro League Baseball Association, and in his 90 years, he has lived through a number of unique experiences that make his story particularly compelling. He was recently honored by the Negro League Baseball Association with a Living Legend Award, and he sat down with CNN’s Nick Valencia to reflect on baseball and his life.
Greason was born in Atlanta, Georgia on September 3, 1924. He served in the United States Marine Corp during World War II. During his interview with CNN, Greason states that he feels as though he is blessed because he did not expect to live past the age of 25. He states, “When I went into the Corps I was on Iwo Jima. I prayed and asked God, if he saved me, whatever, whatever he wanted me to do, I would do it.” Greason’s prayers were answered, and he made it back to the United States alive.
Although he grew up loving football more than baseball, baseball became his ticket to a better life. Regarding his path to becoming a baseball player, Greason states, “I never dreamed that I would have been a baseball player. Nobody taught me how to play. It was a gift.” Greason became a pitcher, and along with friend and teammate Willie Mays, he helped the Birmingham Black Barons win the Negro League World Series in 1948. He went on to become the first black pitcher for the Saint Louis Cardinals.
After baseball, Greason found what he believed to be his true calling and became a minister. He is a survivor of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four young girls and injured dozens. When reflecting on what more he wants out of life after having not just survived but thrived in his endeavors, Greason states, “A few more words from the Lord. That’s all I want. Just to stand a few more times and say something for him.”