Don’t be stunned if there’s a spike in gross sales of outdated Negro League baseball gear— and simply in time for the vacations.
Former Negro Leaguer Ken Free suggests funds could also be a motivating issue behind Major League Baseball’s deci- sion to present the Negro Leagues Major League standing.
“A present of advertising genius,” Free, now 81, instructed the Free Press from his dwelling in Greensboro, N.C.
What higher current than a throwback jersey of the Birmingham Black Barons, the Kansas City Monarchs, the Detroit Stars, the Homestead Grays or others? It may very well be particularly engaging if the jersey has a reputation like Josh Gibson, Ray Dandridge, Satchel Paige or Cool Papa Bell—all Negro League legends—on the again.
“But then, it was a advertising instrument that led to Brooklyn signing Jackie Robinson in 1947,” Free added. Instead of being loyal to the Negro Leagues, Black folks started attending MLB video games in better numbers.
There is also hope by everybody related to baseball that by getting the Negro Leagues again within the headlines, it would assist encourage younger Black youngsters to select up the sport.
Following a stint within the navy, Free performed a number of seasons within the 1950s with a Negro League minor league affiliate, the barnstorming Greensboro Redbirds.
“Our aim was to play and be seen” by Major League scouts, Free mentioned. “No clowning round. No gimmicks.”
Free suited up with the touring Raleigh Tigers in 1959 and was chosen for the ultimate Negro League All-Star Game at Chicago’s Comiskey Park.
In 1960, he joined one other barnstorming squad, the Brooklyn Cuban Giants, the place he was a teammate of the legendary Paige.
Then in his 50s, “Satchel pitched at the least two innings each recreation,” Free mentioned. “That was in his contract.”
The Cuban Giants traveled in the identical bus with the Winston-Salem Giants, and typically the rosters had been combined and matched to suit the event.
That earned Free, a 3rd baseman, a contract with the New York Mets. He performed within the Mets’ farm system from 1960 to 1964, posting a profession common of .289 in 528 video games.
Free went on to grow to be the primary full-time commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 1978 and helped navigate the cluster of HBCU colleges into NCAA Division I.
Free remained MEAC commissioner till 1996 and was instrumental in luring Norfolk State and Hampton University from the CIAA to the MEAC.
In 1987, Free grew to become the primary Black man to serve on the NCAA Division I Basketball choice committee.
Free refers back to the outdated Negro Leagues as “a minor league system on wheels.”
“You drive all evening on a bus and play a recreation the following day,” he recalled.
“I keep in mind one bus trip the place we went from Greensboro to Newark in a single day. And positive sufficient, the bus broke down. We had been so drained. But then somebody instructed us there have been three (Major League) scouts within the stadium, and we perked proper up.”
With all of the journey concerned, typically on rickety buses, it wasn’t simple being a Negro League ballplayer. “But should you haven’t ever recognized any completely different, you don’t complain,” Free mentioned.
Now with Major League standing, it’s cheap that Negro League gear and memorabilia may be on the uptick now that the mud has been shaken off the cabinets.
Have you gotten your Josh Gibson duplicate jersey but?