East-West Classic highlights HOF's celebration of Black baseball this weekend

May 23rd, 2024

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is gearing up for a banner Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., celebrating Black baseball with a statue unveiling, a new exhibit, a home run derby and exhibition game at Doubleday Field, and free admission for visitors on Saturday.

On Thursday evening, a new statue of Henry Aaron will be dedicated in a private ceremony, but visitors will be able to get their first look at it when they enter the museum on Friday. The statue will be located just past the admissions desk, near the stairs leading to the exhibits on the second floor.

Saturday will be a banner day at the Hall of Fame and down the street at Doubleday Field. Admission to the museum will be free to visitors all day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), thanks to the Players Alliance, giving fans their first chance to see the Hall’s new exhibit, The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball. More than four years of planning and development went into the new exhibit, with input from Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., Ferguson Jenkins, Andre Dawson, Ozzie Smith and Lee Smith as consultants.

At 11 a.m., the gates will open at historic Doubleday Field for the Hall of Fame East-West Classic: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues All-Star Game. (Click here for ticket information.) Teams of recent MLB players with a combined 53 All-Star selections among them will play a seven-inning exhibition game.

Last month, team captains Chris Young (East) and CC Sabathia (West) drafted their squads on MLB Network. Some of the MLB stars slated to participate are Prince Fielder, Dexter Fowler, Curtis Granderson, Ryan Howard, Adam Jones, Russell Martin and David Price. Little League World Series legend Mo’ne Davis will also play, and former Negro Leaguers Sam Allen and Pedro Sierra will be on hand. In addition, 12 Hall of Famers will serve as coaches: Harold Baines, Rollie Fingers, Griffey, Jenkins, Jim Kaat, Fred McGriff, Eddie Murray, Jim Rice, Lee Smith, Ozzie Smith, Joe Torre and Dave Winfield.

Fans will be able to watch batting practice, followed by a home run derby at noon. Following the derby, award-winning singer/songwriter Nikko Smith – Ozzie's son – will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before the game’s scheduled 1:05 p.m. first pitch.

Former New York Mets star Mookie Wilson’s Legacy Catering will be among the food trucks just outside Doubleday Field, along with Cooperstown-area businesses Sarchioto’s Concessions, Ty’s Taco-ria, Brewery Ommegang and Gilligan’s Ice Cream.

Finally, fans who purchased the Night at the Ballpark package will be able to return to Doubleday Field in the evening for meet-and-greet and photo opportunities with the participating Hall of Famers and players.

It’s sure to be an exciting and memorable weekend celebrating the impact and influence of Black pioneers and players stretching from the 19th century to today.