In 2014, Hare died in Texas, unbeknownst to his old teammates, fans and a son who spent five years looking for him. Fred Hare Jr. learned of his father's death two years after he was buried.

"At the very least, I was hoping to hug my dad," he said. "But I've been looking for a ghost."

Bob Gibson was in his basement at 3743 Maple St., working on his bar. That's where he learned of President Kennedy's assassination.

The next night, Nov. 23, 1963, his big brother's youth baseball team held its postseason banquet at the Near North YMCA. Honorees included the 1950 midget state champions, notably Bob, who addressed the next generation of talent.

The dinner theme: "You got to have heart."

As the nation mourned JFK and a watershed civil rights year came to a close, perseverance and patience still looked good on paper, but darker forces raged fierce as ever. North Omaha was searching for its heart. Its voice.

Then a native son spoke up — Malcolm X.

After white supremacists chased his family out of Omaha in 1926, Malcolm's childhood spun out of control and his rebellion veered toward hatred. His identity and politics seemed constantly in motion. He stood firm, though, for black pride and dignity.

Before the '60s, "Negroes" walked around in a cloud of shame, especially those with the darkest skin. Rodney Wead, the civil rights activist, can still rattle off slogans of inferiority that marked his childhood. A black cow gives no milk. Bad news is black news. The worst day in American history is Black Friday.

As Big Bill Broonzy sang of discrimination: "If you're white, you're alright. If you're brown, stick around. If you're black, stand back."

Malcolm X confronted the stigmas and attacked the self-loathing. " 'Black is beautiful' took off like wildfire," Wead said.

Dr. King was refined; Malcolm X was raw. And during an era of turmoil and disillusionment, he demanded that blacks assert their manhood. He preached not reconciliation but independence. You don't need them. You're strong enough on your own.

Of course, the message was frequently lost in translation.

Malcolm X criticized Dr. King's tactics — "There's no such thing as a nonviolent revolution." He seemed to revel in JFK's assassination — chickens were coming home to roost, he said.

On June 30, 1964, Malcolm X returned to his hometown at the request of the 4CL. This was two months after completing his pilgrimage to Mecca and two days before President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Down in Mississippi, the feds searched for three Freedom Riders, presumed dead.

Malcolm X had mellowed in '64, breaking from Elijah Muhammad and the Black Muslims, denouncing blanket racism, even building a relationship with his rival, King. But that day in Omaha, Malcolm X was hot. He woke up and sent King a telegram offering "self-defense units" against the KKK in St. Augustine, Florida. "The day of turning the other cheek to those brute beasts is over," he wrote.

That night, Malcolm delivered a speech to 550 people — many of them white — in a small room at the Civic Auditorium. He reminded them of Omaha's 1919 lynching. During his visit to Africa, Malcolm said, he had seen a blown-up picture of Will Brown burning in front of the Douglas County Courthouse.

"When they want to show how a Negro is treated in America," Malcolm said, "they show this scene."

He lamented the history of unpunished violence against Afro-Americans. He challenged society's most intimidating referee — law enforcement.

For years in North Omaha, the sight of police cars elicited a sense of citizen horror. According to blacks, too many cops harassed, terrorized and brutalized not just suspected criminals, but innocent bystanders. Now Malcolm X demanded that blacks, too, pick up rifles and clubs.

"In Omaha, as in other places, the Ku Klux Klan has just changed its bed sheets for policemen's uniforms.

"We have a racist government in Washington that has the audacity to tell us that the South lost the Civil War. The sins of the fathers are about to be visited upon the heads of their children of this generation.

"We do not want integration. We want complete recognition and respect as human beings."

Eight months later, a bullet silenced North Omaha's most famous voice. Black Muslims assassinated Malcolm X in New York City, but they couldn't stop his cause.

At Spencer Street Barber Shop, just a mile from MalcolmX's birthplace, the neighborhood's emerging black radical buzzed hair while executing his real purpose — activating his neighborhood.

Ernie Chambers joined Goodwin at Spencer Street in 1965. He covered the shop walls with news articles, photographs and sketches, mostly depicting white racists and brutal cops. But above his barber chair, he posted a personal drawing of a man he revered.

Chambers had read all about Malcolm X. Listened to LP records of Malcolm's speeches. He admired not only the minister's intellect, discipline and courage, but the absence of hypocrisy — nothing irritates Chambers more than a phony.

They met during Malcolm's Omaha visit and practically finished each other's sentences, Goodwin said. Like one person with two voices. When one stopped talking, the other picked up where he left off. Back and forth for about six hours, deep into the night.

Chambers spent the rest of the 1960s spreading a message that Malcolm X couldn't.

INTRODUCTION: Bob Gibson's 17 strikeouts and setting the stage for the rise and fall of North Omaha

PART ONE: Josh Gibson and the birth and history of North Omaha as a segregated city

PART TWO: Bob Boozer and discrimination at the dawn of the civil rights movement in the early '50s

PART THREE: Life inside the packinghouse motivated athletes like Marlin Briscoe

PART FOUR:How the North Omaha safety net — and one critical coach — saved athletes like Gale and Roger Sayers

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