Wilmer Leon Fields (August 2, 1922 – June 4, 2004) was a household name in the Negro leagues and other baseball circuits between the 1940s and 1950s. His son, Bennie Fields, visits Black Book Talk to discuss his father's book, "My Life in the Negro Leagues: An Autobiography".
Born in Manassas, Virginia, Fields was a versatile two-way player who player for the Homestead Grays Negro League team. Fields also played in Canada and several Latin American leagues, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. In most leagues he was a pitcher, but played at third base or outfield in games when he was not scheduled to pitch. His consistent batting and pitching skills helped him capture the Most Valuable Player award on many occasions throughout the course of his distinguished career. In addition to playing basketball and football, Fields continued his college education in the off-seasons.
After baseball, Fields worked as an alcoholic counselor for the U.S. Government in Washington, D.C." He was also one of the founding member of the Negro League Baseball Players Association. Fields became such a ubiquitous presence at Negro League events that his peers elected him president of the Players Association in 1994. Though he had not desired to serve as the organization’s leader, after he received 67 percent of the vote, he said, “I couldn’t turn my back on those people. ... I’m working every day – almost – on projects, trying to get something started.”51 Fields promoted the legacy of the Negro Leagues wherever he could, primarily through lectures at schools and community events. He also worked tirelessly to try to gain medical and pension benefits for former Negro League players, a venture at which he had some measure of success.52 A short time prior to Fields’ death, Commissioner Bud Selig had announced that Major League Baseball would pay in excess of $1 million in pension money to 27 former Negro Leaguers.53