top of page
  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Black History Month: Yell County born Alfred "Slick" Surrett earned spot in NBL Museum

From his birth just over 100 years ago until his death in 2010, Alfred Surratt made his mark as a soldier, a solid member of the Negro Baseball league with the Detroit Stars and Kansas City Monarchs, a loyal and reliable employee and as a co-founder of the Negro Baseball League Museum in Kansas City.

Alfred Surratt Sr. was born on November 9, 1922, in Danville in Yell County.

A baseball player from his earliest days, he moved to Kansas City to live with his father at the end of the eighth grade. From there, he grew up to become a draftree in the United States Army.

"Slick" Surratt saw lots of action during the war. While serving as a bulldozer operator helping clear the airfield at Guadalcanal, Technical Sergeant Surratt sometimes had to deflect bullets by raising the bulldozer’s plow head.

Not yet twenty 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.

He earned a honorable discharge in 1946.

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.

For at least two of those seasons, Surratt was the teammate of fellow native Arkansan Neale "Bobo" Henderson" who was born in Fort Smith in 1930.

Surratt was also the manager and coach of the Kansas City Giants, a semi-pro team and coached little league baseball for 15 years after retiring.

Known for his speed, he was an excellent bunter who always said "if he hit a ground ball that bounced more than once before it got to the fielder", he could not be thrown out.

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.

He later said his fondest memories of that time were barnstorming with the immortal Paige ("When he picked you out, you had to be kinda an outstanding player") and playing in Yankee Stadium with that barnstorming team.

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, Missouri, plant.

He retired at the age of seventy-nine on Valentine’s Day in 2002, fifty-one years to the day after he was first hired.

He coached Little League baseball in Kansas City for fifteen 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.

Friends and family described Surratt as charming and friendly and always ready with a funny story.

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 at the age of 87 in a nursing home in Kansas City on February 15, 2010.

He is buried in the Leavenworth National Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kansas.

31 views0 comments
bottom of page