MLB Commemorates the 100-year Anniversary
of the Negro Leagues
August 17, 2020 by Tommy Johnson
It’s hard to believe that after 100 years of playing baseball, MLB is still  struggling with Black representation in baseball. Despite the identity crisis baseball has had over the years, it features an incredibly rich history of African-Americans in MLB.
It was 100 years ago when Rube Foster founded the Negro League, a lot has happened since then. Ask most people, and they’ll say that Jackie Robinson signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers was a defining moment in time. Yes, that would be true, but…. that moment wouldn’t have been possible without the road paved by Negro League greats like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.   

The Legendary Satchel Paige

Nobody really knew his age towards the end of his playing days,the myth is he was 60 while pitching in the Majors. There are so many great stories about Negro League players; some are myths while some are not. Some are tales that became larger than life. Whereas life became stranger than fiction and these icons of baseball became icons of life.
Before playing in the Majors, Paige began his career in 1926 with the Chatanooga Black Lookouts of the Negro Leagues (Southern League). While his outstanding control as a pitcher first got him noticed, it was his infectious, cocky, enthusiastic personality and his love for the game that made him a star. Paige went on to pay in the majors, but in life. He became an icon for his on-field performance and longevity. He subsequently became a pioneer of baseball and the negro Leagues.
It was the stories that made players like Paige baseball icons, but it was how they handled the daily brutal racism, death threats and indignation with class that made them legends.

Words of Wisdom

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
Jackie Robinson # 42 | Brooklyn Dodgers

These are some of the other names that adorn the halls of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City; home of the trailblazing  Kansas City Monarchs.  The pioneers include names like Oscar Charleston, John Henry Lloyd, Martin Dihingo, Walter “Buck” Leonard, Monte Irvin, and Smokey Joe Williams… those are just “some” of the greats.
AND YES, it’s true, we all have an enormous debt to pay to Jackie for what he did, it transcended baseball and society. But what these guys did for Jackie, that made it ALL possible and transcended humanity.

Kansas City Monarchs 1942

As mentioned, these names made it possible for Jackie, who made it possible for players of other races, not just in baseball, but in many other sports throughout the world. It gave so many people in so many walks of life the inspiration to stand uop for themselves and make things happen.
Truthfully, if it wasn’t for the Negro Leagues and what they did, the world would never have known of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Bob Gibson and Willie McCovey. These names would have never “made it” in American culture as baseball icons. So yeah, we have a debt to honor these players.
Moments in time we all remember would have never happened if it wasn’t for the Negro Leagues. Moments like the infamous catch made by Willie Mays in the 1954 World series at the Polo ground sin New York.
What made the catch go from great to incredible is that it was made during the world Series, so not just during “any” game.

The history and legacy of the Negro Leagues were celebrated yesterday by all Major League clubs, and will be throughout the remainder of the season and post-season. It will serve as a tribute to the Negro Leagues 100-year anniversary.
MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) have made a joint donation of $1 million towards the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to complement efforts to educate and raise awareness of the impact the Negro Leagues and its players had on society as we know it.

Funds from the donation will support the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center. It will be a public use facility that incorporates the latest in interactive technology and state-of-the-art research equipment. It will allow visitors, students, researchers and fans to study every aspect of the Negro Leagues and social history. 
When completed, the renovated building will house more than 40,000 square feet of archival materials, educational areas, exhibits, conference facilities and administrative offices that will advance the Museum’s mission and strengthen its position as an internationally recognized attraction and institution. 
In a statement, Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred said “Major League Baseball is honored to recognize the men and women whose legacies in the Negro Leagues greatly contributed to the history of our sport; we are proud to work alongside Bob Kendrick and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to educate our fans and share powerful stories of perseverance and excellence, as well as a love of the game that sustained the Negro Leagues for decades.”

Bob Kendrick, President of the negro Leagues Baseball Museum and other prominent African-American former baseball players have been instrumental in making the museum and the 100-year celebration a reality.
In another statement, MLBPA Driector, Tony Clark said “The men and women who played in the Negro Leagues are and forever will be part of our community of ballplayers. They brought to our game levels of skill, passion and integrity under the most challenging of circumstances that both inspired and entertained generations of fans in the decades before and after integration. Their legacy should be celebrated and never forgotten.”

Writer mark Kurlansky said that “The Negro League had some of the best players in history. Satchel Paige was probably one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball, and many believe catcher Josh Gibson was a better hitter than Babe Ruth.”

Josh Gibson of the Homestead Grays
It’s sad to believe that talent like that was kept from us due to the color of a persons skin.
Before COVID-19 shortened the MLB season, all Clubs were going to commemorate the league-wide recognition of the centennial celebration in its own way on Saturday, June 27th.
Many MLB Clubs planned special 100th anniversary ballpark and community activities, in addition to the league-wide recognition. Examples include Negro Leagues tribute games with gameday giveaways, special guests and pregame panels, documentary film screenings, and auctions to support the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum or related organizations. 
Sometimes we have to look back at the life of our ancestors to know the road forward. Baseball has done that for us in so many ways.


SID 200812

MLB Commemorates the 100-Year Anniversary
of the Negro Leagues

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