By Ralph E. Moore Jr.,
Special to the AFRO
Here is an item to take special note of:
Quiet as it’s kept, May 13 will be Negro Leagues Day in our great state.
Since 2009, the second Saturday in May has been designated as Negro Leagues Day in Maryland. The state legislature passed, and Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill to annually celebrate the dignity and super athleticism of Black ballplayers locked out of Major League Baseball for so long. It was signed just in time for the day’s first celebration in 2009.
This year May 13 will mark the 14 annual celebration of Negro Leagues Day in our state. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred pronounced in 2021 that covered some 3,400 players in the Negro Leagues that operated between 1920 and 1948. The once racially excluded ballplayers would now be officially part of Major League Baseball. Though Manfred’s ruling was meaningful at the time, the statistics for players of the Negro Leagues are still awaiting to be incorporated into the Major League’s history.
Included in that decision are the records of two teams that played in Baltimore during that time: the Black Sox and the Elite Giants. For further information on the local Negro League teams go to the Seamheads.com data base (the largest, most complete compilation of Negro Leagues records and statistics).
Notably, pitcher Leon Day was found on the sandlots of Baltimore. Day had an 11-year career in the Negro Leagues, including two games for the 1934 Baltimore Black Sox. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.
Day is one of nine players to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame after spending at least part of their career with the Black Sox or Elite Giants. Others were outfielder Pete Hill, who played for the Black Sox between 1924 and 1925, and Roy Campanella, who played catcher for seven years with the Elite Giants before being signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Fascination for the Negro Leagues is exemplified by the Hall of Famers who began their career there before being signed by Major League Baseball: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Larry Doby and Ernie Banks.
In Baltimore County, the Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball was established and named after longtime Baltimorean and former Elite Giants pitcher Bert Simmons. In the spring of 2014, the museum moved to the Owings Mills branch of the Baltimore County Library, where it is free and open to the public during regular library hours.
The descendants of Negro Leagues Ballplayers have formed an organization, the Negro Leagues Family Alliance (NLFA), to advance the history of their ancestors of the game of baseball. Their mission is “to collectively preserve the legacies, history and intellectual properties of the Negro Leagues while contributing to the education and uplift of baseball and sports.”
The NFLA is calling for a strong observance of Negro Leagues Day on May 13, particularly in stadiums and communities across Maryland. On that day, the families want to see every team wearing Negro Leagues uniforms and commemorative patches. They would like to see “educational and community awareness programs pertaining to Negro Leagues history” take place inside of baseball parks and the community. They also want “Negro Leagues players and families, within the Major League Baseball cities, would be recognized.”
The NFLA is urging the public to call their state representative in the House of Delegates and the State Senate to urge Maryland baseball officials to put on a high profile, meaningful celebration of Negro Leagues Day.
It is time for everyone to know how great the men of Negro Leagues Baseball as athletes and heroic human being, who beat racial prejudice with outstanding talent.
To reach the Maryland Stadium Authority, call 410-333-1560 or go to mdstad.com.