Thursday, October 9, 2008

A League of Their Own

Negro League Baseball is a uniquely American story of gifted athletes and committed team owners determined to succeed against all odds in a league of their own. It's the story of heroes -- some who became famous, others who remained unsung -- who overcame discrimination, hatred, terrible conditions and low pay to do the one thing they loved the more than anything else in the world: play ball.

Award-winning illustrator and writer Kadir Nelson, in an eight year labor of love, pays homage to black baseball in We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. In dozens of richly detailed oil paintings, Nelson captures the authenticity of the emotion and affection that these men felt for our national game.

The list of Hall of Famers who played in the Negro Leagues includes Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson, names that nearly every fan knows. But equally important to the rich history of black baseball are the following:

Rube Foster - As a manager, team owner and eventual organizer of the Negro National League in 1920, Foster lent dignity and stature to black baseball.

Leroy "Satchel" Paige - A phenomenal hurler and a master showman, Paige packed stadiums while pitching for more than 250 teams, including the 1948 MLB world champion Cleveland Indians.

Oscar Charleston - Fearless enough to have once reportedly snatched the hood off a Klansman, Charleston was a brilliant center fielder whose fierce competitiveness drew comparisons to Ty Cobb.

The Homestead Grays - The Grays featured stars Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard and were owned by the well respected Cumberland Posey (center).

Raleigh "Biz" Mackey - Perhaps the finest catcher in Negro Leagues history, Mackey taught Dodgers great Roy Campanella everything he knew about the position.


Major Pepperidge said...

Great illustrations! And there's just something about baseball from the old days... I used to be a big baseball fan, and then stopped caring. Doping, mega-salaries, players striking (not striking out!), corked bats, high prices at the stadiums... it just sort of ruined it for me.

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Major: The illustrations are bigger now, I had a problem with the links. Yes, I agree with you. I can remember the days when I would catch as many Angels games as I could... at prices most could afford. Now I could care less.

Dave said...

This is great stuff! The more I learn about the Negro Leagues (which I knew almost nothing about until Ken Burns' PBS miniseries came out), the more fascinated I am by them.

I think it's a travesty that Buck O'Neil wasn't inducted into the Hall of Fame before he passed away.

Ray Peacock said...

The Detroit Tigers were my team as a kid, went to game #3 of the '68 World Series, saw Denny McClain strike out Mickey Mantle 4 times in one game (hey, that wasn't THAT rare), Detroit went up in flames a few days later ('67). In later years took my kids to many Minor League games in Kenosha WI and Davenport IA. So many memories. Remember when Satchel Paige was on "What's My Line" as a mystery guest in 1971? Too bad all Americans never got to see the great Negro League players compete in the majors, what a travesty and loss. But thankfully the stories and history of the Negro Leagues has been told.

Bearride - Raymond said...

Great Post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!