Tigers celebrate Negro Leagues anniversary

August 15th, 2020

This 2020 season celebrates a major milestone in baseball, the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues. In 1920, the Negro National League was founded by Rube Foster, and featured eight teams: Detroit Stars, Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Cuban Stars, Dayton Marcos, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis ABCs and St. Louis Giants. Through ups and downs within the league and in the country, only the Negro Southern League and a couple of independent clubs survived to move on to the 1933 season. That year, the owner of the Pittsburgh Crawfords brought back the Negro National League and introduced the All-Star Game in Chicago.

As the Negro Leagues experienced success, players like Satchel Paige emerged as incredible talents. In 1937, the Negro Leagues expanded, and the Negro American League was formed. The push to integrate Major League Baseball was beginning, and by 1945, Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers made a groundbreaking deal. It did not take long for Robinson to make it out of the Minors, and on April 15, 1947, he took the field as the first African American to play Major League Baseball.

Negro Leagues Weekend in Detroit sponsored by Comerica Bank
This year’s Negro Leagues Weekend -- which marks the club’s 17th annual celebration -- will be hosted virtually, and the Tigers have many opportunities for fans to take part!

• Since 2008, the “Passing of the Bat” ceremony has paid homage to the history and contribution of African American players to the game of baseball. This year’s ceremony took place virtually on Friday, and it showed footage from previous "Passing of the Bat" ceremonies and ended with this year’s recipient: Werner Blakely Jr., a Detroit native who was drafted in fourth round of the 2020 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Angels.

• Fans will be able to view digital baseball cards of Negro League players, who never had cards printed when they were playing. The players will include a mix of Detroit Stars players along with other former Negro Leagues players. Some of the baseball cards will feature the artwork of Graig Kreindler.

• A special Negro Leagues edition of Sunday Kid’s Day will give kids the opportunity to learn about the Negro Leagues, Detroit Stars, Hamtramck Stadium and the Willie Horton African American Legacy Award. This special Sunday Kid’s Day will also include themed activities and videos. Everything can be found on Tigers.com starting on Sunday.

Along with fan engagement with Negro Leagues weekend, there are several community initiatives that the Tigers are taking part in to celebrate the historic anniversary.

• The Negro Leagues Summer Slugger Challenge will feature Tigers shortstop Niko Goodrum in an interactive challenge that will teach students about the history of the Detroit Stars and Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, a member of the Hall of Fame and one of the most famous Negro Leagues players. Students will research and then submit a video with their favorite fact they learned about Stearnes, then a winner will be announced.

• The Detroit Tigers Foundation will rename a Tiny Tigers team to the Detroit Stars for their 2020 season. There will be a jersey reveal event at Detroit PAL on Saturday from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. ET. At this event, the Tiny Tigers will be presented the Detroit Stars jerseys, provided by Comerica Bank. The kids will also learn about the history of the Detroit Stars and Stearnes, and conclude with a mini skills challenge/scrimmage.

• On Sunday, there will be a special screening of the Tigers vs. Indians game at 1 p.m. ET at the Chevy Plaza in partnership with Comerica Bank. Shortly after the conclusion of the Tigers game, there will be a special screening of “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings.” For information about the event visit the DistrictDetroit.com/movienights.

Past recipients of The Willie Horton African American Legacy Award will join a conference call to talk about the significance of the Award and the role of African Americans in baseball. Former Tigers and past honorees Torii Hunter, Lou Whitaker, Craig Monroe, Jake Wood, Chet Lemon and Gary Sheffield take part in this historic meeting.