The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated the history of Black people in America with their African American Heritage Night on June 19 when the Dodgers defeated the New York Mets 10-6.
To honor African American’s impact on baseball, the Yesterday’s Negro League Foundation displayed their traveling exhibit to Dodgers fans in attendance.
Negro League Baseball lasted from 1920 to 1960 and consisted of 72 teams. The Chicago American Giants, Cleveland Buckeyes, Detroit Stars, Indianapolis Clowns, and the Kansas City Monarchs were some of the teams in the league.
“Some of the greatest baseball players that ever played the game played and died, some of their names will never be known,” said Dennis “Bose” Biddle, president of Yesterday’s Negro League Baseball. “These men made baseball what they are calling it today: America’s greatest pastime.”
The pop-up exhibit featured Leroy Satchel Paige, the oldest rookie and the three women to play in the Negro League: pitcher Mamie Peanut Johnson, second basemen Connie Morgan and Toni Stone. The pitchers and paragraphs are part of the historical project spearheaded by Biddle.
“The Library of Congress notified me by record that I was the youngest to play in the Negro baseball league,” Biddle said. “41 years, I never knew it.”
Biddle created the foundation to tell the true story of Negro League baseball. He mentioned how other organizations would take certain facts to create inaccurate works for the TV or movie screen.
“That [phrase] ‘Negro League’ was never copyrighted,” Biddle said. “1996, I had to copyright the [phrase] ‘Yesterday’s Negro League’ to represent the players that played in the Negro Baseball league because we had no representation.”
Biddle played in the Negro League from 1953 to 1954. He was exposed to iconic catcher Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe and Negro League founder Andrew “Rube” Foster.
“After the Depression, major league all-stars played the Black Negro League all-stars because they couldn’t play together,” Biddle said. “What they did was making history because the Negro League team won most of those games.”
Out of three African American newspapers: The Pittsburgh Courier, the Chicago Defender, and the Memphis Courier, one accounted every Negro League game played, according to Biddle.
Along with the exhibit was a book authored by Biddle and a DVD documentary about the Negro League. Biddle has also worked to get healthcare plans for Negro League players through Major League Baseball.
The former Negro League player spent over two decades collecting artifacts. Players that were former opponents and teammates of Biddle donated their shoes, baseball bats, gloves, and caps to his foundation.
The exhibit will be moved into Dodgers stadium to be featured in a larger exhibit about the impact African American players have on the sport. Dodgers fans can enjoy the exhibit throughout the month of July.
As Biddle continued to preserve the history of the Negro League, the Dodgers were preserving their competitive edge this season. The Dodgers (51-27 overall) would go on to sweep the Mets in their four-game series last week. They recently suffered a loss to the Anaheim Angels 0-4, snapping a 10-game losing streak.
The Dodgers have the best record in the entire National League and the National League West.