One of the top athletes in Leavenworth High School history said race relations are much better for athletes today than during his time.

One of the top athletes in Leavenworth High School history said race relations are much better for athletes today than during his time.

“Guys today are treated way better than back then,” said Herman Rathman, a 1960 graduate of Leavenworth High School.

Rathman said it is important to recognize Black History Month, which is celebrated every year in February.

Rathman, 76, was a two-sport star in football and basketball at Leavenworth High. He excelled in summer league baseball as well.

He played all three sports at the College of Emporia, now known as Emporia State University. He excelled in each sport, but signed a professional baseball contract with the Baltimore Orioles organization after his sophomore year at Emporia. His first professional stop was in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in the Northern League.

He played professionally from 1962 to 1968.

“During my time,” he said, “segregation was still alive.”

He would ultimately reach as high as Class AA before injury stalled his baseball career.

Rathman would later become a standout slow-pitch softball player for high-level teams for about 13 years.

As a teenage American Legion player, Rathman remembered a road trip to the state tournament. The team stopped for a meal at a diner in Junction City, Kansas. He said the waiter took the meal orders of each of the other members of the team – who were white – but refused to take his. He said the waiter told him he could order food and take it outside to eat. Rathman said the team picked up their food and ate outside with him.

“I always remember that,” he said. “That made me feel good.”

After his athletic career, Rathman worked as a recreation specialist at the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth. He retired about 25 years ago.