CHARLESTON, S.C. — They are nearing 70 now, the 11 men who were 12-year-old boys in 1955 and who are remembered for the baseball games they could not play.
They were — actually, with their matching blue blazers and striped ties, they still are — members of the Cannon Street All Stars.
The Cannon Street YMCA is near the Ashley River, which flows toward the harbor and Fort Sumter.
The unpleasantness that started there in 1861 had left pertinent questions unsettled 94 years later when the All Stars, all African-Americans, decided to enter this city's Little League tournament.
Charleston canceled the tournament because blacks and whites simply did not play together. Actually, they did, all the time, in informal settings, on vacant lots.
"Kids do not mess up the world, adults do," says Leroy Major, 69, the All Stars' pitcher and a retired schoolteacher.
Never mind, said the All Stars' coach, who entered them in the state tournament in Greenville. That was too much for the 61 white teams, who withdrew.
Well, then, said the coach, we will head for Rome, Ga., and the regional tournament where the winners of eight Southern state tournaments would compete to see which would go to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Those running things at Rome said the Cannon Street team could not compete because it had advanced by forfeit. But the national Little League organization decided it wasn't the Cannon Street All Stars' fault that no one would play them, so it invited them to Williamsport as honored guests.
For many of them, it was their first venture away from Charleston, exciting and a bit worrisome, because the route north passed through areas where the Ku Klux Klan was restive.
When the All Stars settled into the stands at Williamsport, the crowd began to chant, "Let them play!"
Vermont Brown, 68, an Army veteran and former Lockheed Martin employee, who still is about the size of a Little Leaguer, remembers that when he and his teammates saw the teams warming up on the field, "We knew we would have kicked their butts."
They probably would have, given the pitching of Major. He is a former Marine who is about twice Brown's size. A mountain of Christian serenity, he works with his church, practicing what the summer of 1955 taught him: "Move on."
The spring chicken among the Cannon Street All Stars organization is Augustus Holt, 65. He was too young to play with them but is now the team historian.