The players of the first racially integrated Little League Baseball Game in the South reflect on this revolutionary event in the new documentary, Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story. In 1955, when racial segregation defined the South, two teams of 12-year-old boys stepped onto a baseball field in a non-violent act of cultural defiance that would change the course of history. Florida’s 1955 Little League State Championship between the all-black Pensacola Jaycees and the all-white Orlando Kiwanis moved beyond fears, threats and the unknown to break with tradition and show the world what was possible—breaking the color line in youth sports. Featuring interviews with Major League Baseball and Civil Rights icons Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken, Jr., Gary Sheffield, Davey Johnson and Ambassador Andrew Young, Long Time Coming, directed by first-time feature documentary filmmaker Jon Strong, captures this shining moment in our nation’s history when children led us all toward a better way.
Long Time Coming will open theatrically nationwide on Oct 23rd distributed by NAGRA Kudelski Group in myCinema-enabled theaters, just in time for the World Series. A special one-night-only screening in New York City featuring some of the original team players will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 23rd at 7:00 p.m. at the SVA Theatre.
The release comes off the heels of the film’s festival run and screenings with prestigious institutions this past year with the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation at the Carter Center, Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation, MLB All-Star Week, The Library of Congress and The Global Peace Film Festival.
Jackie Robinson had broken the Major League color barrier in 1947, but segregation still prevailed. Our future hinged upon local Southern communities to either embrace Robinson’s pioneering efforts, to redouble its longstanding commitment to segregation, or to remain quietly complicit in a system of racial inequality.
More than 60 years later, team captains Will Preyer (Pensacola) and Stewart Hall (Orlando) and the players explore how this game changed their lives and why it was more than just a game. They embark on personal journeys back to the game in 1955 and find that the forgotten event becomes a bridge to embracing the turbulence of today’s social landscape.
“I wanted to dig into the uncomfortable, real stories that many find difficult to share,” said director Jon Strong. “Black and white children who grew up in the South, now grown men in their 70s—how can we see them, know them, and most importantly, what can we learn from them for our own lives? Through conversation, I wanted to learn the histories, experiences and truths in their lives. What do they have in common? What makes them drastically different? And how do you bridge that gap in the real world, and not just angrily disagree?”
“Long Time Coming shows us the historic context for segregation and sports as a catalyst for the courage to embrace healthy change for the common good,” said producer Ted Haddock.