Negro League Baseball exhibit opens in Boston
Show highlights Hall of Famers
An exhibit on the Negro Baseball League opened in downtown Boston appropriately on Juneteenth, Monday, June 19, hosted by Emerson College with sponsorship from the Red Sox, the city of Boston and Meet Boston.
One of the driving forces behind the exhibit is Frank R. Jordan, a special advisor to the Boston Red Sox, who possesses a wealth of knowledge about the leagues. With so much history being lost, destroyed or simply ignored, Jordan carries the torch for the great Negro ballplayers of yesteryear.
“It is my passion to make their history known and to keep their names alive,” says Jordan, whose father played in the Negro Leagues. He goes on to say it is important for young people to know about a league that produced such Hall of Fame ballplayers as Jackie Robinson, the man who broke Major League Baseball’s infamous “color line” in 1947 and played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League. But it must be remembered that Robinson and Larry Doby, the first man to break the color line in the American League just weeks after Robinson, stood on the shoulders of great Negro Baseball League stars Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Walter “Buck” Leonard and far too many others who never got the chance to play against the white players of Major League Baseball in regular season games.
Jordan’s love for the history of the Negro leagues comes from his father.
“My dad was the bus driver, mechanic, pitcher and business agent for the Augusta Bears from Augusta, Georgia. They played in Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia,” Jordan said. “He had to pay his 20 players out of a budget that was as low as $80. After the long hours of travel, the split of money was roughly $4 a man. But it wasn’t about money. They played for the love of the game.”
Jordan’s work on the local level has produced a thriving baseball interest among young people.
“This is our 21st year of the Boston Area Church League play at Walsh Park (in Dorchester). Volunteers from the sheriff’s and police departments and all kinds of churches and organizations are helping to teach kids the proper way to play baseball,” he said. “With help from others in the community, we have established a base to continue to grow the game of baseball.”
Former Red Sox players Luis (“El Tiante”) Tiant and Tommy Harper, an executive with the Red Sox minor league franchise in Worcester, attended the opening of the exhibit, called “Barrier Breakers: From Jackie to Pumpsie,” and shared their thoughts.
“It is always great to recognize the history of baseball, and you can’t do that unless you tell the complete story of the game, its good and bad,” reflected Harper. Tiant, a Cuban exile who became a Red Sox legend, supported Harper’s words. Both men know from whence they speak, considering they are baseball lifers.
Many children and young people in the audience were soaking up the information they had not previously known about America’s Grand Old Game. Hopefully, many other Boston residents will make the trip to the Negro Baseball League exhibit before it closes on Aug. 4. The showing runs seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 118 Boylston Street.
For more information, contact Michael Munn at 508-728-5519.