MLB Celebrates 100th Anniversary Of Negro Leagues
In the midst of heightened racial tensions across the country and a pandemic that stunted traditional celebrations, Major League Baseball took the time to honor the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues on Sunday.
Throughout the MLB, teams wore patches to commemorate the occasion and the bases had a plaque honoring the Negro Leagues' date of establishment in 1920 at a YMCA in Kansas City, the current home of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
The original centennial celebration was scheduled for June 27, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick was encouraged that people would still be educated on the rich history and significance of the league, especially with the success of the Tip Your Cap digital campaign where players, presidents, musicians and everyday people can pay homage.
"The launching of our Tip Your Cap to the Negro Leagues campaign really gave a boost to this milestone celebration this year," Kendrick said in an interview with NPR. "This virtual campaign just really took off. It was a crazy idea that I had that after we couldn't do our national day of recognition with Major League Baseball where all 30 teams were going to honor the Negro Leagues and essentially do an in-stadium tip your cap with fans and players. As you know in our sport, there's nothing more honorable that a ballplayer can do than a simple tip of the cap. It is the ultimate show of respect."
The MLB announced the centennial celebration back in February when Commissioner Rob Manfred and Kansas City Royals owner John Sherman made an appearance and announced a donation of $1 million to the museum.
Under the restricted conditions of the 2020 season, MLB utilized the internet and social media to educate fans about the Negro Leagues' history, including Andrew "Rube" Foster, who was the mastermind behind the organization with hopes to eventually integrate into the Major Leagues.
On Sunday, the Miami Marlins wore throwback jerseys of the Miami Giants, a semipro team that played many teams in the Negro Leagues. The Giants faced Kansas City Monarchs star pitcher Satchel Paige, who later went onto the Major Leagues with the Cleveland Indians. Paige's son, Robert, threw out the ceremonial first pitch against the Atlanta Braves to commemorate the Negro Leagues' 100th anniversary. Marlins pitcher Sterling Sharp wore custom cleats to celebrate the day.
Other Negro League stars that MLB recognized in the centennial celebration were Newark Eagles' star Larry Doby who was the first Black player in the American League and spent 13 seasons with the Cleveland Indians; Hank Thompson and Willard Brown, two other Monarchs stars who were the first Black teammates in the Major Leagues when they signed with the St. Louis Browns; and Dan Bankhead, a sensational pitcher for the Birmingham Black Barons and Memphis Red Sox who was Robinson's first Black teammate on the Dodgers and the first Black pitcher in the Major Leagues.
While the Negro Leagues are no longer in existence, they showed the country that Black baseball players — as well as coaches and executives — deserve an equal playing field.