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Negro Leagues Museum honors Hall of Fame trio

Brock, Morgan, Winfield appreciative of game's trailblazers, Robinson's legacy
Special to MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Three Hall of Famers appeared at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Saturday to become the first members of the "Hall of Game." The museum honored those players as a tribute to MLB stars who played the game with the same passion, determination, flair and skill as the heroes of the Negro Leagues.

The event earmarked the 94th anniversary of the Negro Leagues and took place just days before MLB's annual Jackie Robinson Day celebration.

KANSAS CITY -- Three Hall of Famers appeared at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Saturday to become the first members of the "Hall of Game." The museum honored those players as a tribute to MLB stars who played the game with the same passion, determination, flair and skill as the heroes of the Negro Leagues.

The event earmarked the 94th anniversary of the Negro Leagues and took place just days before MLB's annual Jackie Robinson Day celebration.

Lou Brock, Joe Morgan and Dave Winfield took time to reflect on the impact of Robinson and his breaking the color barrier in baseball.

Morgan wrote his senior thesis at Cal State-Hayward on the Negro Leagues. Through that he gained a special appreciation for the role Robinson played.

"I don't think we'll ever know how great Jackie Robinson was. He had to play under pressure we didn't have to play under," Morgan said. "Jackie went out there knowing some of his teammates hated him. Everybody in the stands hated him. I had it easy."

Brock said Robinson fought to be accepted as a man playing Major League Baseball. He mentioned a scene from the 1967 movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" where Sidney Poitier's father voices disappointment in his son who has proposed marriage to a white woman. "That's the problem, Dad. You were teaching me how to be a black man, rather than a man."

Winfield said Robinson's contributions went way beyond the baseball field, including the military and business.

"I'm proud to be a part of Major League Baseball that really helped change America to a great extent," Winfield said.

Jim "Mudcat" Grant was also in town to receive the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award. He recalled his days as a young newspaper delivery boy. When he picked up the bundles of the New York Amsterdam News and the Pittsburgh Courier announcing Robinson's debut, he read it cover to cover. Then he proceeded to tell everyone the news on his route.

"To us that meant, yes, we can play baseball," Grant said. But he said the meaning went way beyond baseball -- to books. "Maybe now we can get the books we need to get our education because of this. It meant so much more than just the game itself."

Morgan also said a lot of people had tried to make a difference before Robinson, but they did not have the wherewithal to get the job done.

"It wasn't just baseball. He made an impact everyplace," Morgan said. "He changed the way people viewed us as African-Americans. He had to be the perfect guy, and he was."

Max Utsler is a contributor to MLB.com.