Sunday, January 3, 2010

A pair of 10 year-old Boston twins discover the Negro Leagues

It is always endearing to find out when the next generation of baseball fans discover the Negro Leagues. A recent Boston Globe article details the journey of a pair of 10 year-old Brookline twins (Max and Lucas Kerman) into the history of the Negro Leagues. The Negro Leagues experienced a rise in popularity in the mid 1990's when Ken Burns put Buck O'Neil on a worldwide stage in the epic series Baseball. O'Neil captured the minds of many, including this writer, with the clarity and vigor he displayed in telling the story of the Negro Leagues. While the stories of Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige are retold by many, to loosely quote O'Neil, "there were many other Satchel's and Josh's that played in the league." It was the story of those "other" superstars that made me further investigate the great talents of the Negro Leagues.

During the 1990's, there were many of the league's great stars alive to share their experiences of playing in an era of segregation. Many of them wrote books, attended reunions and card shows, and gave countless interviews to authors and reporters. As many started to pass, the public started to lose their connection to the Negro Leagues, even though literature was plentiful.

Currently, there are approximately 30-40 living Negro Leaguers who played before 1950 (the last year that most historians qualify the league as having widespread major league talent) and a handful of others who played in the league through 1960. They are our last living connections to a league that provided some of the greatest baseball talent in the world while enduring the hardships of segregation.

I commend these youngsters for actively seeking out the players to hear their stories. Hopefully they will be advocates for the memory of the Negro Leagues to their generation of baseball fans. My only hope is that we will see not only white youth take this kind of interest in the Negro Leagues, but that we will also see African-American youth doing the same.


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