Port Orange Resident is a Part of Baseball History

Port Orange, Fla. – On a warm June 2022 day, 86-year-old Fred Beneby walked onto a baseball field – something he did quite frequently when he was a bit younger as a right fielder in the Amateur Negro League.

Now, as a resident in Seagrass Village of Port Orange, Fred doesn’t play ball anymore, but the love of the all-American game is as much a part of him today as it was more than 70 years ago.

“My love for baseball started because of Jackie,” Fred said.

Jackie was none other than Jackie Robinson.

In 1947 at the age of 12, Fred saw Jackie Robinson in person when he and Roy Campanella were in the Fort Pierce, Florida, area to help present trophies to a winning basketball team.

This was the same year Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. And it was the very same year that baseball’s color barrier was broken when Jackie’s cleats touched the clay diamond for the first time.

It left an impression on Fred.

Just two years later in 1949, Fred began his baseball journey with the Paradise Giants, who became the Hollywood Red Birds, who then flew the coop to become the Dania Red Birds.

His original flannel jerseys are gone now – some to a museum, others lost to time – but he had a Dania Red Birds replica made in a lighter weight and more Florida-friendly material. The one he proudly wears around today is a perfect fit and reminder of where life has taken Fred.

Life though, like baseball, throws lots of curveballs.

One curveball was the start of the Korean War in June of 1950. Another was the draft: Military draft, not baseball draft.

Fred was drafted into the United States Army near the end of the war and served in Korea. Even during his military service, he continued to play baseball.

But his batting and fielding days were coming to end.

Upon returning to the United States in 1958, he met his wife, had a daughter five years later and realized not getting paid to play amateur baseball didn’t make sense now that he had a family.

He ended his baseball career in the early 1960s but started a 30-year career at Southern Bell, later known as AT&T. Fred became a technician, then a job in marketing followed by a management role in the human resources department.

Yet, Fred’s love affair with the game continues today.

“Seagrass Village of Port Orange helped me organize black history month with a display based on my baseball playing days with the Dania Red Birds.”

And Fred knows how to bring people together: Sports.

“Being involved with sports is one of the best things for people coming together and living together peacefully because of the diversity,” Fred said.

There’s no doubt Jackie Robinson is looking down and smiling at Fred’s contribution to the game of baseball and more importantly, life.


For more information about Seagrass Village of Port Orange, visit the community online at www.seagrassvillagepo.com