Negro Leaguers honored with Tribute Game
DETROIT -- Saturday's game against the Rangers was the Tigers' 20th annual Negro Leagues Tribute Game. Both teams wore uniforms from that era, with Detroit representing that city's Stars franchise and Texas representing the Fort Worth Black Panthers.
Before the game, 10 former Negro Leagues players participated in a roundtable discussion at Comerica Park, fielding questions from fans about their experiences.
Charlie Davis, Melvin Buck Duncan, Pedro Sierra, Walt Owens, Johnny Walker, Bill Hill, Ron Teasley, Minnie Forbes, Eugene Scruggs and Henry Saverson were all in attendance and were honored in an on-field ceremony prior to the game. They represented teams such as the Memphis Red Sox and Indianapolis Clowns, in addition to Detroit.
The honorees maintained strong ties to Detroit through the years -- Teasley, for example, grew up in Detroit and later coached baseball at the city's Northwestern High School. He threw out a ceremonial first pitch before Saturday's game.
One former player referred to the Negro Leagues as "the most important chapter in the history of baseball in the United States."
Forbes, who owned the Stars and also was the fourth woman to play in the Negro Leagues, remembered the time period fondly as well.
"It was a unique experience for me," said Forbes, who played third base. "I learned a lot."
That's not to say, however, that all of her memories are endearing.
"I didn't get an opportunity to show how smart I was because they wouldn't let me hit the ball," Forbes said.
The difficulties the Negro League players faced ranged from the mildly annoying (rough travel schedules and sub-optimal accommodations) to downright nasty displays of racist vitriol.
"We didn't care because we loved the game," said Sierra, who introduced himself as the last Negro League player to be signed by a Major League club.