Oklahoma State athletics: In light of Marcus Smart's shove, former OSU baseball player recalls the fan incident that changed his life

During a week when the buzz in the sports world has been about a Cowboy who had a momentary lapse in judgment, another Cowboy, Anthony Blackmon, who had his own lapse talked of the tough days and months that followed. The fallout was severe. The damage was extreme.
by Jenni Carlson Published: February 15, 2014
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Anthony Blackmon was like most Oklahoma State fans last Saturday night — he saw Marcus Smart shove that fan at Texas Tech.

Unlike a vast majority of the Cowboy faithful, Blackmon's thoughts quickly turned positive.

“It's gonna be OK.”

He would know.

Twenty-seven years ago, Blackmon was an outfielder on the OSU baseball team, and during a regional at Mississippi State, he endured racial slurs and slights of every kind. He kept quiet for the better part of a week, but when the tournament was over, he responded.

He mooned the fans.

It changed his life.

During a week when the buzz in the sports world has been about a Cowboy who had a momentary lapse in judgment, another Cowboy who had his own lapse talked of the tough days and months that followed. The fallout was severe. The damage was extreme.

“It cost me a lot,” Blackmon said. “I didn't take responsibility for my actions and premeditate my thoughts and stay disciplined.”

His life changed. It didn't end.

* * *

Anthony Blackmon landed in Oklahoma by way of Indiana. After his sophomore year at West Side High in Gary, he attended a baseball camp at OSU. Those were the days of Gary Ward, the Cowboys swaggering into the park wearing eye black, then beating in your brains. Blackmon knew he wanted to play pro ball, so being a Cowboy seemed like a great way to get there.

The Cowboys were interested in him but not enough for the speedy outfielder.

He signed with the Sooners instead.

After playing only sparingly his first season at Oklahoma, he transferred to Seminole State. A great season there convinced the Houston Astros to draft him in the second round.

Instead of signing with Houston, he transferred to OSU. His dream team had finally loved him back.

“If I'd have known then what happened later,” he said, “things would've been different.”

Had he known, he would've picked the Astros over the Cowboys, but as the 1986 season began, all that he was focused on was trying to find a spot on a talented team headlined by Robin Ventura and Monty Fariss. Blackmon's speed and skill eventually landed him in the outfield and in the leadoff spot.

The Cowboys made the College World Series that season, then seemed poised for another trip to Omaha the next year. They were ranked No. 1 in the country and expecting to host a regional like they had for several years.

But when the NCAA Tournament bracket was announced, OSU was heading instead to Mississippi State.

Dudy Noble Field in Starkville was known then as it is now — a tough place to play. Mississippi State fans are among the most passionate in college baseball, and the rowdiest among them sat just beyond the left-field fence.

They called it the Left Field Lounge, an area that had no bleachers but rather filled with trailers and couches and whatever anyone could drag over. The regulars called themselves the Lounge Lizards — author and alum John Grisham has been known to make an occasional appearance — and they made it their mission to make life miserable for visiting outfielders.

Anthony Blackmon was about to become their prime target.

* * *

Blackmon was the Cowboy center fielder, and even though the OSU outfield was a diverse bunch — left fielder Ray Ortiz was Mexican, right fielder Bennie Castillo was Dominican — Blackmon was the only black player on the roster.

Mississippi fought desegregation as long and hard as any state in the union. Nearly 16 years after Brown v. Board of Education, Mississippi schools were still being forced by judges and lawmen to integrate.

OSU coaches told their players about the environment in Starksville, particularly the Lounge Lizards.

Hearing about them was one thing.

Hearing them was another.

After the regional, Ward said that Blackmon was called every racist name in the book. Buckwheat. Skillet. Others that can't be printed.

A combination of profanity and racism rained down on Blackmon inning after inning, game after game, day after day.

“I was there for five days, OK?” Blackmon said. “You don't understand what I went through.”

He didn't respond, didn't retort, didn't react — until the Cowboys made the final out of the championship game and earned another trip to the College World Series. As his teammates began to celebrate, Blackmon turned his back to the fans beyond the outfield fence and dropped his drawers.

Even though he had on sliding shorts so no skin was exposed, the sentiment was clear.

The gesture was brief and many in the stadium didn't even know what had happened, but news spread quickly.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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