Charles Lenard Neal, a former student at Guild’s Lake School and member of the Guild’s Lake Fire Brigade, became the spidery speedster and batting star of the 1959 World Series. This fun fact was inspired by the Portland Diamond Project’s event celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Negro League. While Charley is most identified with Texas, he lived briefly in WWII housing in Slabtown and grew up to play in the World Series. His parents were passionate about baseball. He began his career in the Negro Leagues with the Atlanta Black Crackers. Signed by the Dodgers in 1950, Charlie spent six years on the Dodgers’ minor league farm team, reaching the major leagues with the Dodgers in the 1956 season. In the majors he was mentored by Jim Gilliam and Jackie Robinson. He ended his profession baseball career playing for the NY Mets. He died in 1996, at age 85. For more on Charlie Neal’s career I recommend a piece by Warren Corbett. Corbett coined the term the invisible Dodger because of the overall talent on the team during his career: “He was still invisible; several of his Topps baseball cards printed his name as “Charley” even though his autograph on the same card said “Charlie.”
I knew that Charlie—a Texan at heart—spent time in Slabtown, but I’ve found had no other evidence besides the single image taken by the Housing Authority of Portland,. He was not included in any of the Guild’s Lake School quarterlies, nor do his parents (Houston & Verdell Neal) appear in any Portland City Directories. The 1940 census lists four siblings: James (age 10), Charles (age 9), Harlod (age 6), and baby Vivian—all living in a home owned by their parents in Longview, Texas.