Feature   Know Your Military

Sports Heroes Who Served: Singer Served in Army, Played Baseball in Negro Leagues

Feb. 23, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Charley Pride was famous as a country music singer. As an African American, he broke the color barrier in the country music industry with his 1960s and 1970s hits, particularly "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'," released in 1971.

A young boy poses for a photo.
Boyish Pride
Charley Pride poses for a photo as a young boy.
Photo By: Courtesy of Charley Pride
VIRIN: 391215-O-ZZ999-001

Pride, born in 1934, was one of 11 children of a sharecropping family in Sledge, Mississippi. He developed a passion for country music, buying his first guitar at the age of 14 and teaching himself to play by listening to radio broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry.

Some of his other hits include:

  • "The Snakes Crawl at Night," 1966
  • "Just Between You and Me," 1966
  • "All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)," 1969
  • "(I'm So) Afraid of Losing You Again," 1969
  • "I Can't Believe That You've Stopped Loving Me," 1970
  • "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone," 1970
  • "Wonder Could I Live There Anymore," 1970
  • "I'd Rather Love You," 1971
  • "I'm Just Me," 1971

In the decades that followed, Pride continued to produce a large volume of songs. One of his last singles was "Except For You" in 2011 on the "Choices" album.

A soldier poses for a photo.
Charley Pride
Charley Pride poses for a photo in his Army uniform about 1957.
Photo By: Courtesy of Charley Pride
VIRIN: 571215-O-ZZ999-001

Pride was also a notable baseball player beginning in 1953 when he signed a contract for a farm team of the New York Yankees. He later earned a spot in the Negro Leagues, and he played as a pitcher and outfielder in Detroit, Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala. 

In 1956, Pride's baseball career was interrupted when he was drafted into the Army.

Pride's honorable service in the Army was from 1956 to 1958. After basic training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, he was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, where he served in logistics. He also played on the installation's baseball team which won the "All Army" sports championship in 1957

After his Army service, Pride rejoined the Negro Leagues.

A man in a tuxedo sings into a microphone .
Inauguration Performance
Charley Pride sings at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, Jan. 20, 1981.
Photo By: DOD photo
VIRIN: 810120-O-ZZ999-001

But Pride was becoming more interested in singing than baseball, and, in 1958, he cut his first record "There's My Baby (Walkin')."

More About the Negro Leagues

The Negro Leagues were formed in 1920 so that African Americans could play professional baseball, as they were not then allowed to play for Major League Baseball teams.

A man sings into a microphone.
Pride Performance
Charley Pride sings at Republic Country Club in Stafford, Texas, Nov. 26, 2016.
Photo By: Courtesy Republic Country Club
VIRIN: 161126-O-ZZ999-001

On Dec. 16, 2020, MLB announced it was elevating the Negro Leagues to major league status.

Pride died of COVID-19 just four days earlier on Dec. 12 in Dallas.

More Stories of Sports Heroes Who Served
sports graphic
Sports Heroes Graphic
Sports Heroes Who Served graphic - with title
Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 200706-D-ZZ999-903