Springfield’s MLK Commemorations Committee will host a variety of activities in 2020 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Negro baseball leagues.
The Negro leagues were United States professional baseball leagues comprising teams predominantly made up of African Americans and, to a lesser extent, Latin Americans.
The term is used broadly to include professional black teams outside the leagues and it may be used narrowly for the seven relatively successful leagues beginning in 1920 that are sometimes termed “Negro Major Leagues.”
The committee’s goal with this year-long commemoration of the Negro baseball leagues is to highlight the ingenuity and resilience utilized in the face of bigotry that prohibited athletes of color from playing professional baseball; fill in omissions/bridge gaps in history; and, spotlight notable achievements of African American, biracial, Latino and multiracial baseball players, managers, owners and teams.
A few of the stories we plan to share during this year-long celebration include:
- Andrew “Rube” Foster, aka the “Father of Black Baseball,” was the organizer of the Negro National League, the first long-lasting professional league for African American ballplayers (operated from 1920 to 1931).
- Three women played in the Negro leagues. Their names were Toni Stone, Connie Morgan, and Mamie (Peanut) Johnson.
- Before becoming a country music singer/musician and business owner, Charley Pride played in the NLB with teams like the Memphis Red Sox.
- In 2006, Newark Eagles executive Effa Manley, became the first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Manley co-owned the New Jersey-based Eagles with her husband, Abe, and ran the business end of the team for more than a decade. The Eagles won the Negro Leagues World Series in 1946 – one year before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major-league baseball.
Planned events and activities include:
Film screening and interactive discussion
Feb. 13. Location TBA. This event will kick off the year-long celebration. It was on Feb. 13, 1920 that Andrew “Rube” Foster led eight independent black baseball team owners into a meeting held at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City. Out of that meeting came the birth of the Negro National League, the first successful, organized professional black baseball league that provided a playing field for African American and Latino baseball players to showcase their world-class baseball abilities. The Negro Leagues would operate for 40 years, becoming a catalyst for economic growth in African American communities across the country and helped spark social change in America.
Please note that the film screening and discussion is intended for adults, due to the nature of the film content and the related discussion about the intersectionality of power and privilege with bigotry and oppression.
Traveling book exhibit
Throughout 2020 at Springfield-Greene County Library District branches.
The exhibit will feature a high-interest, culturally responsive bibliography of adult and children’s books, along with other resources. Resources are illuminated to heighten awareness about historical gaps/omissions, and showcase exceptional accomplishments of Negro leagues players, managers, owners, and teams.
For example, there is a wealth of information in books like “Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player,” by Jeremy Beer. Although Charleston is a little-known player, many experts title him as the best player in the Negro leagues’ history.
Charleston was a formidable player and manager for several clubs, including the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Despite never playing in major leagues, he blazed a trail as the first African American man to work as a scout for a major league team; and, his stellar record as a player, manager, and scout crowns Charleston as the most accomplished individual in black baseball history.
Community storytelling events
Throughout 2020 at various locations in Springfield.
Community members will actively engage audiences in high-interest, culturally responsive read-aloud storytelling about Negro leagues; players, managers, owners and teams.
Join us for excerpts from “Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League,” by Martha Ackmann; “Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever,” by Leroy (Satchel) Paige as told to David Lipman; “Roy Campanella – Baseball Legend,” by James Tackach; “The Most Famous Woman in Baseball: Effa Manley and the Negro Leagues,” by Bob Luke; and “We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,” by Kadir Nelson) in community venues like barbershops/beautyshops, elementary schools, faith-based institutions, libraries, and Springfield-Greene County Park Board’s Timmons Hall).
Can you keep a secret? Personas of NLB players, managers and owners might also be on hand to share their experiences. Shhhhh!
Negro Leagues Day at Hammons Field
6:30 p.m., May 8.
The Springfield Cardinals will commemorate the Negro leagues’ centennial anniversary at the Friday, May 8 home game against the Arkansas Travelers. The pregame show will feature a short video about the leagues and a Negro leagues representative will throw out the first pitch.
About the MLK Commemorations Committee
The MLK Commemorations Committee was founded in 2018 and is comprised of representatives from the following organizations:
- Boys Booked on Barbershops
- Children Booked on Faith
- Drury University
- Faith Voices of Southwest
- Girls Booked on Beautyshops
- Great Southern Bank
- Missouri State University
- Ozarks Technical Community College
- Peoples History Café
- Southwest Missouri National Organization of Women
- Springfield Art Museum
- Springfield-Greene County Library District, and
- Springfield-Greene County Park Board’s Timmons Hall.
The committee operates under the auspices of the Springfield NAACP.
In Dr. King’s stead, the committee was created to make a positive impact in the Springfield community through multifaceted initiatives, with an emphasis on Dr. King’s primary platforms of education and service.
Springfield’s MLK Commemoration Committee Chair Dr. Sabrina Brinson is a professor of childhood education and family studies for Missouri State University. Her primary lines of research include diversity, multiculturalism and social justice, with an emphasis in African American studies; culturally responsive literature; and social, emotional and moral development. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.