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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It's About Time

The Baseball Hall of Fame will have its biggest class ever when it inducts 18 new members this summer.

Why the big class?

Read this and find out the details.

Basically, the Hall of Fame is opening its doors to people of color who excelled in the Negro Leagues (whether as owners, managers or players) or in pre-Negro League days. One of the seventeen was a white woman who co-owned the Newark Eagles with her husband. Another was a former Penn State football star who owned the Homestead Grays. Yet another was a well-known catcher and manager who helped mentor Roy Campanella. If the names Effa Manley, Cum Posey and Biz Mackey don't mean anything to you, you'll get the opportunity to learn lots more about them in short order.

I recently read Bruce Lanctot's excellent book, Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution, which underscored for me how difficult it was for the Negro Leagues to operate. They weren't well funded, the travel and accommodations were substandard much of the time, and the teams were at the mercy of those who controlled bookings at the major stadiums. Yet, the institution persevered for a while, a tribute to many an unsung hero who played for the love of the game. Ironically, it was the admission of Jackie Robinson into organized baseball that ultimately killed the Negro Leagues. There are other outstanding books on the subject, including Robert Petersen's Only the Ball Was White, so if you want to round out your baseball knowledge, go to your favorite bookstore website, pick a book on the topic and order it.

It's a shame that most (if not all, and I haven't been able to confirm this, but it might be all) will be honored posthumously. It's also regrettable that it took the Hall of Fame this long to take this extraordinary step and induct these worthy people. All that said, it's great that the Hall of Fame has taken this step now.

Baseball has long been called "The National Pastime." With this announcement, the Hall of Fame has taken the important step of ensuring that the foundation of the game honors the entire nation's baseball history. Baseball may not be "The National Pastime" today (as you can argue ably that football is), but today the light shines brightly on organized baseball for doing the right thing.


Anonymous Phil the Brit said...

Prof, there's some good material online for this important subject also. Here's a handful of links:

5:44 AM  

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