Tigers honor 100th anniv. of Negro Leagues

August 16th, 2020

DETROIT -- learned about the Negro Leagues from the stories his father told him growing up in Georgia. Then, once he broke into the Major Leagues with the Tigers, he visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City and saw the history he had learned about.

“The amount of things they had, the amount of things that were saved, it’s amazing,” Goodrum said. “Like, they have catchers' cups that were saved. You can see the statues, the jerseys. You learn about everyone. Rube Foster, you learn about everything that he went through. It’s a lot. I advise everyone out there to check it out.”

So when the Tigers were looking for a player to help teach kids the story of Hall of Famer and former Detroit Stars great Norman “Turkey” Stearnes as part of their annual Negro Leagues tribute weekend, Goodrum already had a sense of the history.

Though the Tigers can’t welcome fans to Comerica Park for this year’s celebration, they’re celebrating virtually. Former Tigers and Willie Horton African American Legacy Award winners Torii Hunter, Craig Monroe, Jake Wood, Lou Whitaker, Chet Lemon and Gary Sheffield teamed up for a video conversation Friday that is available on the Tigers’ YouTube channel. The Tigers set up digital baseball cards of Detroit’s Negro League greats for fans to peruse at tigers.com/history.

Among the highlights of Sunday’s celebration was Goodrum teaching students about the history of the Detroit Stars and Turkey Stearnes.

“It's huge that we continue to honor our history,” Tigers outfielder said. “The reason that I'm able to play that game that I am today [is] because of their sacrifice. I think it's important that we continue to honor and pay homage to the history, and I'm happy to be back to be a part of it.”

Detroit has a special place in that history. While Stearnes was one of the greats of the Detroit Stars from 1923 to 1931, Cool Papa Bell starred for the Detroit Wolves in 1932. They were among the many Baseball Hall of Famers who played at Hamtramck Stadium, one of just five Negro League home ballparks still standing thanks to a preservation effort. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

took it upon himself to begin learning the history.

“Over time, I started to learn more and more about the history of the Negro Leagues,” Stewart said, “how the league started, the players that were in it. I started to do my own research, but I really started to dive into it last year. With it being the 100th anniversary, obviously there’s stuff everywhere, so I’ve been reading and learning more and more about it.

“Honestly, that’s part of the reason I’m here today as a player. It’s pretty awesome reading about some of these guys and what they did.”

Another big part of that history is the museum in Kansas City, which is currently open.

“I have been there, and I think it's a place that everybody should go visit,” Maybin said. “To me, it's just the history, just the sacrifice. For me, just being there made me realize how important it is for me to try to carry on a legacy to enrich our inner-city youth to continue to play the game, the sacrifice, the will, the character, in a difficult time to play -- to go out and perform, to play, with a lot of things stacked up against you. I'm just very grateful to be able to experience that. It's just so much history that I'm proud to be a part of. If you're a part of baseball, you should get out there and visit. It's definitely something you should see.”

Quick hits
• The Tigers have "TBA" listed under starting pitchers for Tuesday and Wednesday against the White Sox in Chicago. Manager Ron Gardenhire said they’re still working out their rotation. will pitch Monday’s series opener on his standard four days’ rest, and will start Thursday’s series finale.

• Reliever is progressing well from his left groin strain, Gardenhire said, and the Tigers hope to have him back from the 10-day injured list when he’s eligible to be reinstated on Thursday.