The baseball season's winding down, but there's a baseball story out in 21Country that's current any time of year.
Sarah Chesebrough, with the Lincoln Museum says, “They don't care if they're playing on a white team or a black team. All they're doing is playing baseball and they're happy to be doing that. They loved the game and they had to fight so many obstacles to play the game.”
They loved the game.
In an era when pampered millionaires swell the ranks of the 'Boys of Summer', spending time with men who played baseball because they loved the game is refreshing.
And this remarkable exhibit on the Negro Baseball Leagues at Fort Wayne's Lincoln Museum shows how much African Americans were willing to put up with just to play the game.
In baseball’s early days, black players weren't an issue.
Blacks and whites played on the same teams.
Findlay, Ohio's ball club had two black players in 1894…Grant 'Homerun' Johnson and Bud Fowler.
By the 1920's though, racism has caught up with baseball and whites make it clear blacks are not welcome in their leagues.
So blacks start their own.
Kansas City businessman Rube Foster creates the Negro National League in 1920, fielding eight teams.
The Negro Southern League is formed the same year, and in 1923, The Eastern Colored League is born.
During the Great Depression, some black teams barnstorm to stay alive, playing a home team then moving on to the next town.
The Kansas City Monarchs switched to night games to boost attendance.
Chesebrough says, “They were able to use these nice fields that were being used during the day by the National League. They could come in and play on them at night. It was wildly popular and precluded nighttime baseball by the National League by a couple of years.”
The 1940's were the heyday of the Negro Leagues.
Migration from the south swelled black populations in northern cities.
More blacks were working in the war economy and attendance at games skyrocketed.
But the Negro Leagues were already doomed.
Black teams, like Satchel Paige’s All-Stars, were beating white teams in exhibition games around the country and pressure to integrate the sport was mounting.
On April 15th, 1947, Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers on Ebbetts Field and the fate of the Negro Leagues was sealed.
White ball clubs began siphoning off the best black players, and by 1960, the Negro Leagues are gone.
But the names of their big stars still resonate with us...Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, James 'Cool Papa' Bell, the fastest man in baseball.
They are superstars who bridged the color barrier and proved to a generation of Americans its not skin color but ability that counts.
And on this day in this spot, that lesson is being passed down to another generation of fans.
What are your thoughts CLICK HERE to leave us a "Your2Cents” comment.
© Copyright 2013 A Granite Broadcasting Station. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.