Saturday, October 30, 2010

Negro Leagues

Joe Posnanski is easily the greatest living baseball writer not named Peter Gammons.  In his latest blog entry, he touched upon a very important, and often overlooked subject.  The Negro League Baseball Museum, after years of poor leadership decisions and loss of direction, is in financial disarray and in danger of closing.  I'm not going to go into too much detail on the subject because I can't do it justice, but I do want to touch upon the main thing that really struck a chord with me.  I recommend reading the full article.
"The Negro Leagues remain a difficult thing to celebrate.  For obvious reasons, almost nobody mourned its death.  If anything, people mourned that it had ever existed at all.  How do you celebrate an anachronism?  How do you commemorate a piece of America that was not touched by what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature?  And yet, as Buck would say, these guys COULD PLAY, MAN.  These teams were centerpieces of bustling black communities.  The biggest games were played on Sundays after church, following Saturday nights overflowing with jazz — this is American history too.  Buck dedicated the later part of his life to keeping this history alive, these memories alive, to keeping the players alive, to reminding people that, yes, Willie Mays was the GREATEST MAJOR LEAGUE player he ever saw, but Oscar Charleston was the GREATEST PLAYER he ever saw.
I agree with Joe when he asks, "How can we celebrate an anachronism?"  He's right.  There's no way to celebrate a situation that never should've existed in the first place.  The segregation instilled by Major League Baseball robbed baseball fans the opportunity to see some of the greatest players the game had at the time, all because of racist self-interests.  It's sad.  The men who played in the Negro Leagues didn't play baseball for the money, the prestige, or the recognition.  They did so because they loved the game.  That's what should be celebrated.  Major League Baseball rejected them as not being worthy of participating in their league, yet their love and desire of the game propelled them to play anyway. 

I am a huge baseball fan.  I always have been, and always will.  That said, there's this huge part of baseball history (the Negro Leagues) that I know very little about.  That changes today.  While I may not have the disposable income to donate money to the Negro League museum (like Craig Calcaterra did after posting his take on the NLBM situation), I will make every effort to honor Negro League players by reading, researching, and learning more about their league and their accomplishments. 

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