U.S. Postal Service honors its own and others with Negro leagues baseball stamps

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 15, 2010; B03

It's not every day the U.S. Postal Service finds a personal connection to the thousands of celebrities, artists, musicians, plants, flowers and historic events emblazoned across postage stamps. But Thursday, the agency will honor one of its own -- and thousands of others -- as it unveils two stamps commemorating Negro leagues baseball.

Cleophus Brown, 76, of Birmingham, Ala., clocks in every morning at 3:30 and drives a USPS tractor-trailer full of mail from the airport to postal stations. But long before he joined the ranks of mail truck drivers, Brown was a first baseman and left-handed pitcher with the all-black Birmingham Black Barons and Louisville Clippers.

Despite his 100-mile-per-hour pitch, "they won championships before I got there," Brown said Wednesday, joking.

The Postal Service will release the two stamps Thursday during a ceremony at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo. The thumb-size images depict a player safely sliding into home base and Andrew "Rube" Foster, who founded the Negro National League in 1920. The Postal Service will issue 80 million copies of the stamps, according to a spokesman.

"I'm just really proud," Brown said of the honor. "I'm just glad to get it and to think about what we did."

The Postal Service reached out to its hundreds of thousands of workers in search of former Negro leagues players. It eventually learned about Brown, the only current postal worker who played in the league. Two of his former colleagues in the Birmingham area also played ball, and they meet each month for dinner with other alums.

"We started with about 50 in the city of Birmingham, but there are about 22 of us now," Brown said.

After 32 years with the Postal Service, Brown, a widower, said he has no plans to retire.

"I've been coming to work for so long, I'd hate to be without it," he said.

And no, Brown isn't one of the tens of thousands of Americans who collect stamps. "But I'm definitely going to collect this one," he said.

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