Charley Pride, Former Negro Leagues Pitcher, Country Music Icon, Dies at Age 86 | Bleacher Report

Melissa M. Munoz

Brandon Wade/Associated Press

Country music star and former professional baseball player Charley Pride has died at the age of 86 due to complications from COVID-19.

Jeremy Westby of the public relations firm 2911 Media confirmed the news to Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press on Saturday.

Pride was country music’s first Black superstar. He is also the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

His most popular single was “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” which hit No. 1 on the United States country chart and peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972.

Twenty-nine of Pride’s singles landed at No. 1 on the country chart, and the Recording Industry Association of America certified his first eight albums as gold, per Pitchfork’s Matthew Ismael Ruiz.

Pride was an aspiring MLB pitcher in the 1950s and 1960s, per his official website. He suited up for the Negro American League’s Memphis Red Sox and Birmingham Black Barons and signed a deal with the New York Yankees’ Class C affiliate in Boise. However, a shoulder injury curtailed his Yankees minor league stint: He was sent down to Class D ball before being released.

Still, Pride kept his baseball dreams alive and even made the Negro American League All-Star team in 1956, winning 14 games for Memphis. Pride transitioned into a knuckleball pitcher during that year.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served for two years but returned to playing ball in 1958 and made the All-Star team once again. He pitched against MLB All-Stars Al Smith, Gene Baker and Ernie Banks.

Pride got a chance to try out for the Los Angeles Angels in 1961, but it did not work out. A failed tryout with the New York Mets in 1963 all but ended his baseball dreams, but he launched his phenomenal singing career shortly thereafter.

Many people extended their condolences and remembrances of Pride following news of his death, including country music legend Dolly Parton:

The Texas Rangers did as well. Pride, who became a minority owner of the team in 2010, notably sang the national anthem before a September 2019 Rangers home game.

Pride had done so on many big stages before, becoming the first solo performer (and country music star) to sing the national anthem at a Super Bowl when he did so for the eighth edition of the game in January 1974. He also sang at numerous MLB postseason games, including the 2010 World Series.

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