First pitch

Former Oklahoma State baseball players Freddie Moulder (left) and Donkor Khalid throw out the first pitch at O'Brate Stadium. Moulder and Khalid broke the color barrier at OSU in 1965.

Donkor Khalid and Freddie Moulder chatted for a couple of seconds and shared some laughs as they stood out on the baseball diamond.

It was like old times for the two friends, who both joined the Oklahoma State University baseball team in 1965. They just wanted to have fun and play for a premier program like OSU.

Breaking the color barrier never really crossed their minds.

“It wasn't really emphasized that Freddie and I were breaking the color barrier,” said Khalid, who was then known as Don Kuykendall. “We never talked about it, we didn't think about it. We were just here to play ball and have fun and go to school to get an education. So it wasn't a big deal.”

The two trailblazers returned to Stillwater on Saturday night to throw out the first pitch before the Cowboys’ game against Baylor. In the 56 years since they met, the game of baseball has expanded beyond those racial barriers and become a global sport.

Moulder, who grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma, was used to being the first to do anything. He was the first Black player to play Little League in his hometown and was the first Black player to garner All-State honors in basketball and baseball in Oklahoma’s history.

Moulder thought segregation was just a part of life. He didn’t start to experience some equality until he moved to Stillwater to join the Cowboy basketball team.

“For me it was normal life,” Moulder said. “I mean there were a whole bunch of black players in football, basketball. But none of us thought they were trailblazing or being the first this and that. It was part of life.

“I grew up in Guthrie where you sit in the crows nest to watch the movie. You would drink in the Black water fountain and go to the Black restroom. You eat in the back of the kitchen. That was part of life so as far as coming here, it was really uplifting. We ate with everybody, we didn't have to sleep in separate dorms, we went to the same restrooms, same everything.”

Playing for the legendary coach Henry Iba, Moulder was the sixth man on OSU’s Big Eight championship team in 1965.

When new baseball coach Chet Bryan arrived, he opened up the doors to anyone who wanted to play, giving Moulder a chance to once again play both basketball and baseball.

The Cowboys also recruited the state’s player of the year in Khalid, who had known Moulder in high school and would now get to go down in history with him at OSU.

Khalid, who grew up in Anadarko, Oklahoma, was an outfielder and a pitcher who had the impressive feat of leading the Cowboys in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins in 1965 and then pacing the team at the plate the next year with a .338 batting average.

The duo’s time at OSU was remembered for more than the significance of their skin color, as they started out their time with home runs in each of their first collegiate at-bats.

Moulder led the team that year with seven homers, along with being the clubhouse leader in RBIs, triples and stolen bases. After that season, he left for the MLB, being drafted in the 24th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

For Moulder, the stark difference between then and now is evident when looking out over the new, $75 million O’Brate Stadium.

As he was starting out in the pro ranks — playing in the Class A New York-Penn League — Moulder remembers his first game being on a snow-covered field in 40 degree weather in upstate New York. And he loved it.

“I said ‘This is pro ball,’” Moulder said. “The lights were pitiful. I was telling Donkor that these kids don't realize how lucky they are to play in something like this where the ball actually bounces right. You have lights you can actually see the ball. They don't realize it. They have no idea. Looking at this, this is just as good as any pro ball park in the country.”

Being honored among the first guests in the new ballpark meant a lot to Moulder and Khalid. After throwing out the first pitch, the two shared a laugh and then high-fived the current Cowboys, who hail from all locales and nationalities now, thanks to what Khalid and Moulder did 56 years ago.

“I just feel honored that they invited us to do what we did today,” Khalid said.

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