Elmer Carter, who overcame segregation in baseball and the military to be a top outfielder in the Negro leagues and a decorated World War II veteran, died Friday of heart failure. He was 100.
Despite his age, Mr. Carter had sharp memories of his glory days as a catcher for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro National League. He enjoyed telling how he caught and argued with famed pitcher and teammate Satchel Paige. He gleefully recalled sweeping the New York Yankees in three exhibition games at Yankee Stadium.
A 1931 shoulder injury ended his baseball career, 16 years before another Monarchs player, Jackie Robinson, broke the major leagues' color barrier. Mr. Carter then played football for the minor league Hollywood Bears before joining the Army in 1942.
As a member of the 121st Engineer Combat Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, he was wounded by a land mine on Omaha Beach in Normandy during the D-Day invasion. He later drove a tank at the Battle of the Bulge, where he was seriously injured in a battle that killed the rest of his crew.
He shared his experiences with the Unsung Heroes Living History Project, which records the stories of African American veterans. He was proud of his military service, for which he received two Purple Heart medals.
"He loved telling all the history he lived through," said his great-nephew, Willard Thomas. "He saw and lived through so much."
Mr. Carter was featured in many news stories and celebrated by sports and community groups for his role in history. A charming man who loved to talk, he recently gave two in-depth interviews about his life to the Rancho Cordova Historical Society.
Born in 1911 in Dalton, Mo., he grew up in a family of seven children in Sapulpa, Okla. His father helped pave Route 66, and his mother was a domestic. At age 12, he left home for adventure and took a job as a cabin boy aboard a freighter to Rio de Janeiro.
He returned to Oklahoma and excelled in sports in high school, especially baseball. Recruited at age 18 by the Negro leagues, he played two seasons with the Monarchs.
His baseball career ended after he broke his shoulder in a car accident on the night of his wedding to his first wife, Alice. They had a son, Ronald, who predeceased him. He is survived by his second wife of 58 years, Mary, and a stepdaughter, Jacqueline Clancy.
Mr. Carter returned to Los Angeles after World War II and was a popular waiter at the Tail O' The Cock, a hangout for Hollywood celebrities, and other fine restaurants. He retired as a supervisor for Security Pacific Bank and moved to Carmichael in 1987.
He lived for the last 20 years in Rancho Cordova. He was an active member of New Testament Baptist Church in North Highlands, where he sang in the male chorus.
His baseball stories brought the thrill of the game to life, including memories of chasing down fly balls for an out that keyed a victory for the Monarchs. But he also recalled the sting of discrimination in the sport, including a Yankees manager who once dismissed the Negro team as "bush-league ballplayers."
Despite racism in sports and life, however, Mr. Carter refused to give up.
"I always felt that as you could play it, I could play it," he told The Bee last year. "I could do just as well as anyone else there. If you could play the game, I could, too."