Black Pioneers: Alfred “Slick” Surratt

Alfred Struatt with baseball bat pose
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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, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. The Hardball Times published an article about his death on this date in 2010.

Alfred Surratt was born on Nov. 9, 1922, in Danville. A baseball player from his earliest days, he moved to Kansas City to live with his father at the end of the eighth grade. Not yet 20 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.  

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. 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, Mo. plant. He retired at the age of 79 on Valentine’s Day in 2002, 51 years to the day after he was first hired.

He coached Little League baseball for 15 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 Feb. 15, 2010. He is buried in the Leavenworth National Cemetery in Kansas.