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Cooperstown Welcomes Exhibit Honoring Black Baseball


The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, hit a grand slam with its newest exhibit, which opened on May 25.

Anything and everyone connected to baseball, for as far back as one can remember, likely has found a home, in some manner, in the sport’s ultimate depository. This past weekend in Upstate New York, many baseball fans visiting Cooperstown learned about a part of the game’s history that previously may have been unknown to them.

After years of planning, the Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball is an exhibit for all to enjoy and learn from. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Friday evening in the museum’s Grandstand Theater.

In attendance was Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark, Vice-Chairman and Hall of Famer Joe Torre (Class of 2014) at the event, along with many former MLB standouts, as well as 14 Hall of Famers. The Souls of the Game offers a first-person account of the former Negro Leagues, as well as those who reached the MLB level, and what made them must-see professional baseball.

As salute to the East-West All-Star Game presented by the Negro Leagues between 1933 to 1962, took place the following day, May 25th. At Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, a six-inning game was played with the support of MLB, Boeing, and the Players Alliance.

Players on each squad wore flannel uniforms representing teams of the Negro Leagues. Among those for Team East – Bradenton's Ian Desmond, Curtis Granderson, and CC Sabathia, a pitcher during his all-star career, served as third base coach and designated hitter.

Team West’s group included Tony Gwynn, Jr in left field, Ryan Howard at first base, and starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who, during his 17 big league seasons, played for 14 different clubs (the most by any player), was the starting pitcher.

The Negro Leagues’ East-West Classic reached its height in attendance in 1943 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park while attracting 51,723 fans.

This past weekend, the Cooperstown tribute’s game drew a sold-out crowd of 5,740 at Doubleday Field.

The Souls of the Game: Voice of Black Baseball tells the story of those who overcame insurmountable odds in pursuing their careers because of their love for the game they had.

Billye Arron, the widow of Hall of Famer and home run champion Hank Aaron, was in attendance in the Grandstand Theater for the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday and, with the assistance of Hall of Famer Ken Griffy, Jr, threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Saturday at the ball game.

Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith (Class of 2002), who also serves as the museum’s educational ambassador, spoke to a packed Grandstand Theater crowd on Friday about the underlying reasons for the Voice of Black Baseball to be told.

“We (Hall of Fame) wanted to take our time in developing this initiative. There is a commitment to have more Black kids in baseball.”

Smith was among the advisory committee members who worked on The Souls of the Game project for two years. Smith went on to say that the exhibit's final version is something everyone can be proud of.


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