The Negro Leagues received the kind of recognition they deserve Sunday. All Major League clubs celebrated the centennial of the founding of the Negro National League -- the first structured Negro League that lasted for an extended period -- with all players, managers, coaches and umpires wearing a Negro Leagues
The Negro Leagues received the kind of recognition they deserve Sunday. All Major League clubs celebrated the centennial of the founding of the Negro National League -- the first structured Negro League that lasted for an extended period -- with all players, managers, coaches and umpires wearing a Negro Leagues 100th anniversary logo patch on their uniforms during Sunday's games. The logo, a derivative of the official logo created by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, also was featured on base jewels and lineup cards.
The festivities, originally slated for June 27 but postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighted what has become a summer-long celebration of the league and its players, 100 years after the league’s founding. Bob Kendrick, who is the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, believes the big celebration would not have happened without Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, who made a joint donation of $1 million to the museum in February.
• The Negro Leagues: Complete coverage
“Even though it’s not the way that we had envisioned it, with fans being in the ballpark and creating that groundswell of energy in and around this celebration, we have one of the most significant platforms ever to count the richness of the history of the Negro Leagues, " Kendrick said. "This great museum as the caretaker of that history is something we all take great pride in.”
MLB clubs have also planned special 100th anniversary ballpark and digital engagement activities throughout the season, including Negro Leagues tribute games with throwback uniforms, educational panels, documentary film screenings and special auctions to support the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum or related organizations. For example, on Sunday the Marlins wore throwback uniforms of the Miami Giants, a semi-pro team from the 1930s that faced many of the biggest Negro League stars of the day, such as Satchel Paige.
The Phillies released a documentary titled "They Said We Couldn't Play" about the Philadelphia Stars on their YouTube channel. They also placed cardboard cutouts of Stars players in the second deck in left field.
Several Major Leaguers also discussed what the Negro Leagues mean to them. White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson talked about the players who paved the way and was asked to name his favorite players.
“Really, all of them. I look up to them,” Anderson said. “If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here today. So, everybody, you know I can't forget them.”
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge spoke about the first time he visited the Negro Leagues Museum with veteran left-hander CC Sabathia.
“The big thing is going to the museum in Kansas City; that'd be the first thing I'd recommend to anybody who wants to learn about the Negro Leagues and what those guys went through,” Judge said. “The history of the game and the great players that we had, that's something that's pretty special.
“Every time we went to Kansas City, CC would always take a couple guys out there and just check it out. That was always a pretty special moment.”
EVERFI, an official education partner of MLB, has incorporated club-customized content to highlight the Negro Leagues as part of the “Summer Slugger” program, a free, baseball-themed educational course aimed at preventing students from losing critical math and literacy skills during the summer months.
The Commissioner’s Office has digital plans to engage fans on both social media and a new dedicated page on MLB.com, powered by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, to highlight the history of the Negro Leagues and its players. The page contains player and team profiles, historic photos of Negro Leagues players, videos featuring interviews by Kendrick and more. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has designated a special anniversary hashtag to be used on social media -- #NegroLeagues100.
MLB Network is celebrating the 100th anniversary throughout its programming this weekend, which started with the network's weekly kids-focused program “Play Ball” on Saturday morning, followed by a special "MLB Tonight" program. In an interview filmed at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds and Kendrick discussed the impact the Negro Leagues and its legends had on baseball and generations of fans. Jim Kaat (play-by-play), Reynolds (analyst) and Stephen Nelson (on-site reporter) paid tribute to the Negro Leagues throughout the "MLB Network Showcase" presented by Chevrolet game telecast of the Mets-Phillies game on Sunday afternoon, and MLB Network will re-aired "MLB Tonight Celebrates The Negro Leagues 100th Anniversary."
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Additionally, the United States Conference of Mayors -- an integral partner of the "Play Ball" initiative -- in collaboration with the African American Mayors Association, will be sharing videos of their cities' connections to Negro Leagues players and teams, as well as photos of America's mayors tipping their caps to the Negro Leagues. These photos will be featured on a special mayors section at both the USCM PLAY BALL site and the NLBM’s “Tipping Your Cap” initiative.
The "Tipping Your Cap" campaign started with Kendrick, then was spearheaded by sportswriter Joe Posnanski, who wrote "The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America." With the help of friend and business partner Dan McGinn, the project took off earlier this summer, featuring contributions from all four living former presidents, Hall of Famers like Hank Aaron, many current MLB players, four generations of the Jackie Robinson family, as well as celebrities and all-time greats from other sports, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, two-sport star Bo Jackson and many others. Baseball fans from all over joined in sharing their tip of the cap on social media.
It's still not too late to join in. Tipping your cap to the Negro Leagues is a simple three-step process:
Step 1: Take a photo or short video of yourself tipping your cap to the Negro Leagues. If you would like to include some words -- maybe about the cap you are using, why you feel connected to it, what the Negro Leagues mean to you, etc. -- that would be great.
Step 2: Send the photo/video to [email protected].
Step 3: Post your video on social media using the hashtag #TipYourCap2020.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City is a privately funded, non-profit organization; annually renewing memberships to support the museum are available ranging from $25 to $1,000. Membership includes free admission for the year, a 10 percent discount on merchandise from the NLBM Extra Inning Store and advance information on special events. Members also receive a gift and additional benefits at each level of support. Occupancy remains limited in order to provide for safe social distancing.
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.