Jocko Maxwell: Voice of the Negro Leagues
Working at the post office may have paid Maxwell’s bills, but sports – and being a sportscaster – quickly became a passion.
After striking up a conversation with the owner of WNJR in Newark in 1929, Maxwell started announcing a weekly five-minute segment on Saturdays in which he reported sports scores and other stories.
“No blacks were doing it, not in this country,” said Sam Lacy, famed Afro-American sports columnist and 1997 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, in 1998. “Absolutely, he was the first.”
“There was no money involved,” Maxwell noted. “No salary ever in any sports. Never asked. They never gave me any.”
“Jocko was on his own mission,” recalled Star-Ledger sportswriter Jerry Izenberg. “He let the world know what was going on in places like Ruppert Stadium, Forbes Field and Comiskey Park when the ‘other’ teams took over from the regular tenants. And in his way, he made the part of America that would listen know all about these black knights of the open road.”
“He got the scores out to people. He was one of the few people who kept records,” said Izenberg, who campaigned for Maxwell’s 1994 induction into the Newark Athletic Hall of Fame.
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Maxwell provided stories for Baseball Digest and authored his own book consisting of sports interviews he had performed. He also compiled and edited the book "Great Black Athletes."
Sherman “Jocko” Maxwell passed away in Pennsylvania on July 16, 2008, at the age of 100. His legacy and accomplishments, however, live on as someone who was a humble yet pioneering voice in sports broadcasting and Negro Leagues history.
“[V]ery few records of the Negro Leagues … are accurate, and there would be almost none, without him,” Izenberg said after Maxwell’s death. “He could sense the meaning of what he was doing. He knew one day this stuff would be important.”
Matt Rothenberg is the manager of the Giamatti Research Center at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum