DALLAS -- Pedro Sierra was one of the last of the Negro Leaguers, a pitcher for the Indianapolis Clowns in the 1950s. Sierra was hoping to follow in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson and others, but the chance never came.
“If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would love it,” Sierra said. “I don’t regret anything. It was a great experience. To be a part of the legend of being a Negro League ballplayer is so important to me.”
The New York Black Yankees signed Robert Scott out of his hometown of Macon, Ga. He dropped out of high school at the age of 16 for the opportunity to play for $175 a month. He later spent winters pitching for the Jackie Robinson All-Stars barnstorming team.
“I never had a problem playing baseball in the South, but I knew how it was,” Scott said. “You were black and they were white. So, we had to keep our distance, but they also wanted to see you play baseball and they cheered you. They learned you could be the other and still enjoy it. But it took a while.”
Sierra and Scott are among 10 Negro League All-Stars who were interviewed by freelance filmmaker Lauren Meyer for an extraordinary documentary titled “The Other Boys of Summer.”
The film was shown on Thursday night at the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy in West Dallas. Youth Academy athletes and students from nearby L.G. Pinkston High School came to the Mercy Street Complex to view a special screening and hear from Meyer as well as Delino DeShields and Darren Oliver of the Rangers.
“I think this is important,” DeShields said. “If you are going to get involved in sports, you should know the history and know who came before you. This is a unique thing. A lot of Negro Leaguers didn’t get a fair opportunity. The few that did go from the Negro Leagues to the big leagues obviously made a big impact.”
The film was 12 years in the making. Meyers sat down with Sierra, Scott, Hall of Famer Monte Irvin and White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso, who many believe should be in Cooperstown, too. She spoke with infielder Jim Robinson, who grew up in the shadow of the Polo Grounds and was one of the last of the Kansas City Monarchs.
Robinson told Meyer he's never forgotten the day that Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier.
“I had an idea blacks and whites would play together, and I saw it,” Robinson said. “I can say, ‘Lord, thank you.’ I saw it happen, blacks and whites were playing on the same team.”
Meyer talked to the people who lived through it as players and experienced it all, both the good and the bad, the glory and the ugliness. She spoke with Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, who was turned down by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League because of her color and instead ended up pitching against the men for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Leagues.
“It’s always great to share this story with kids because they are not all that familiar with it,” Meyer said. “The Negro Leagues are never taught in school. For me it’s an opportunity to inspire them and connect the generations and really show the Civil Rights trailblazers.”
Oscar-winning actress Cicely Tyson narrates the film, but Meyer lets the players tell their story and doesn’t rely on political pundits, comedians and front-parlor philosophers to color the truth. With historical photos and archival footage, it is a gritty and vivid look at the Negro Leagues in the way it really was.
“The story is really about pursuing your dreams, despite all of the road blocks,” Meyer said. “It explores Civil Rights America through the eyes of the Negro Leaguers, their dreams and the way they pursued their dreams.”