The Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF), and the Inglewood Baseball Fund hosted a virtual forum in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues.
The virtual forum was joined by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and former Dodger and current broadcaster Jerry Hairston Jr., whose grandfather played in the Negro Leagues with the Birmingham Black Barons and Indianapolis Clowns before finishing his career with the Chicago White Sox of Major League Baseball.
The virtual program was live-streamed on Facebook and the Webinar had over 500 participants from the Inglewood Baseball Fund, Dodgers Community partner organizations, LADF grantee organizations, Dodgers RBI, and Dodgers Dreamfields partners.
Sunday, August 16th the Dodgers along with all of Major league Baseball celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues with all on-field personnel wearing symbolic Negro Leagues 100th-anniversary logo patches.
Dodgers Vice President, External Affairs & Community Relations, Naomi Rodriguez opened the program sharing the importance of celebrating the Negro Leagues.
“Celebrations like this are so important to shine a light on trailblazers in our sport that helped open doors for opportunities for people of color, not just in baseball but in society at large,” said Rodriguez. “The impact of the Negro Leagues continues to be felt to this day in terms of entertainment and diversity in our game, and we’re proud to help commemorate this milestone.”
Those who attended the virtual forum were given an overview of the Negro Leagues by Larry Lester, baseball author, historian, statistical researcher, and lecturer, and current chairman of the Society for American Baseball Research’s Negro League’s Committee.
Dodgers Team Historian Mark Langill led a discussion panel with Roberts and Hairston, who discussed how the Negro Leagues impacted their respective careers. Following the panel, Roberts and Hairston answered questions from youth baseball and softball players and other participants.
Though progress has transpired in the progression of diversity in Major League Baseball, the Dodgers Manager is one of only two active black managers in the sport.
Roberts shared his thoughts on Negro Leagues players stating, “these guys made a big sacrifice when you talk about what the Negro Leagues did to inspire Major League Baseball, raise the bar for Major League Baseball players and give African American players an opportunity to pave the way for myself. We wouldn’t be where we are in our careers without them.”
Jerry Hairston Jr., grandson of profound Negro Leagues player Sam Hairston, touched on the motivation he possessed each time stepping on the baseball diamond during his professional career honoring the sacrifice of his grandfather and the rest of the Negro Leagues players.
Jerry Hairston Jr. reflected, “my grandfather was a better player than I was, but he didn’t have the opportunity that I had. That’s why I played as hard as I did because my grandfather and others sacrificed so much for us. It’s just so great that these men are getting recognition during this panel and throughout this celebration.”
In February, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) announced a joint donation of $1 million to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri to complement efforts to educate and raise awareness of the impact the Negro Leagues and its players had on the sport and society.