Sunday, January 30, 2011

Past, Present and Future of African American Baseball

I had the great honor and pleasure to moderate a very special panel of baseball stars speaking to a very special audience in Birmingham, Alabama. I was with the Atlanta Braves Caravan with outfielder Jason Heyward, Pitcher Kris Medlin, first base coach Terry Pendleton, and former Brave Terry Harper. Pretty high brow company right there. But, it got much better upon arrival.

First, there was a stop at the 16th Street Baptist Church for a tour. You know the place - this was the church that was bombed in 1963, killing four young girls attending Sunday school....September of the most heinous hate crimes of the civil rights struggle. Moving. Touching. Inspiring. More...

Then, across the street to the Civil Rights Institute where the Braves players addressed some local middle schoolers. But, the panel had some very special speakers in attendance.

Roger Brown, Ernest Fann, Leroy Miller, Tony Lloyd, Henry Elmore, and Sam Bryson. Ring any bells? Try the Philadelpia Stars. The Birmingham Black Barons. The Indianapolis Clowns. The Memphis Red Sox.

These elegant gentlemen were all enormous stars in baseball's Negro Leagues. And each came forward to offer the youngsters words of encouragement about overcoming societal hurdles, the importance of family and education, and the beauty of the game of baseball at it's essence.

But, the thing I loved above and beyond the kids was the reaction of the current and past players... a real show of reverence, which has been earned by these pioneers and very much deserved.

Atlanta will host the 5th Civil Rights Game in May, and God willing, many of these historic greats will be in attendance. Please turn out as the Braves host the Phillies and tip your cap to these baseball pioneers. I'm honored to have been in their company, and will soon be posting photographs on this site.