(COOPERSTOWN, NY) – The greatest legends of Black baseball demonstrated their talents and desire for four decades at the annual Negro Leagues East-West All-Star Game. From Satchel Paige to Cool Papa Bell, these gifted Black Knights took center stage.
What Is The Hall of Fame East-West Classic?
The Negro Leagues East-West All-Star Game debuted in 1933 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park and was played annually through 1962, including several years that featured multiple games. Hall of Famer Bill Foster was the winning pitcher in the inaugural East-West All-Star Game and several future Hall of Famers starred in the game throughout the years, including Ray Brown, Andy Cooper, Leon Day, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Jackie Robinson and Willie Wells.
In 2024, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will honor that legacy by hosting the Hall of Fame East-West Classic: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues All-Star Game,presented by Boeing, during Memorial Day Weekend at Cooperstown’s historic Doubleday Field.
Scheduled for Saturday, May 25, the Hall of Fame East-West Classic will feature more than two dozen former big leaguers, with Ken Griffey Jr. and Ozzie Smith among the Hall of Famers who will serve as the East and West teams’ managers and coaches.
The game, which will take the place of the Hall of Fame Classic in 2024, will be part of a weekend celebration as the Museum opens its new exhibit The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball.
“Memorial Day Weekend will serve as a landmark event within a years-long initiative among the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and our partners to rethink how the stories of Black baseball are told in Cooperstown,” said Josh Rawitch, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “The Souls of the Game exhibit will tell the story of Black baseball through the voices of the men and women who broke barriers and made history on and off the field.”
The Negro Leagues East-West All-Star Game debuted in 1933 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park and was played annually through 1962.
MLBbro.com is naturally elated and fully supportive of this turn of events, as our entire platform is dedicated to preserving, highlighting and reporting the history and current triumphs of African-American baseball players.
“We are thrilled to host many of the game’s biggest stars of the last two decades for the Hall of Fame East-West Classic, a tribute to the heroes of Black baseball who showcased their talents for years in the annual Negro Leagues All-Star Game,” continued Rawitch. “The incredible enthusiasm from players participating in this legends game faced their own challenges while helping to build on the diversity that has flowed through our National Pastime for more than a century.”
Who Will Be Playing?
Players committed to participate in the May 25 Hall of Fame East-West Classic include team captains CC Sabathia and Chris Young; Josh Barfield, Tim Beckham, Ian Desmond, Prince Fielder, Curtis Granderson, Tony Gwynn Jr., Jerry Hairston, Scott Hairston, LaTroy Hawkins, Ryan Howard, Edwin Jackson, Jeremy Jeffress, Adam Jones, Russell Martin, Tony Sipp, Justin Upton and Dontrelle Willis.
CC Sabathia pitched 19 seasons for the NY Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers. His 251 career wins is tied with “Bullet” Bob Gibson for No. 1 all-time among MLBbro pitchers. With just 161 career losses, CC flosses an ERA of 3.74 with 3,093 strikeouts. The Black Ace won 1 Cy Young award, 1 League Championship MVP award and 1 World Series.
“The East-West All-Star Game was the annual showcase for the Negro Leagues, and we are privileged to be able to honor the legacy of those stars over Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown as part of the Hall of Fame’s celebration of Black baseball,” Sabathia tells MLBbro.com.
“As players, we are indebted to the pioneers who came before us, and recognizing the All-Stars of the Negro Leagues pays tribute not only to their playing ability but also to their courage and devotion to the game.”
The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball Exhibit
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has teamed up with Sports Travel and Tours to offer baseball fans a one-stop opportunity to purchase Classic Weekend travel packages. For more information or to plan a trip to Cooperstown, please call 1-888-310-HALL (4255). Membership participants receive a 5% discount on all their baseball travel packages.
Located on the Museum’s second floor in the Yawkey Gallery, The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball will cover stories of early Black baseball, the Negro Leagues era, the complexities of reintegration, Jackie Robinson, post-reintegration progress and retrogress, and calls for change in today’s game while celebrating the newest superstars of the era. Meaningful stories from Black baseball are also being added to other exhibits throughout the Museum.
The exhibit is part of the Hall of Fame’s Black Baseball Initiative that includes additional outreach programs, educational materials and virtual programming.
The Souls of the Game, a title that pays tribute to W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal 1903 book “The Souls of Black Folk”, will explore the Black baseball experience of those men, women and children who were and are an integral part of our National Pastime.
Subtitled “Voices of Black Baseball”, the exhibit will highlight first-person accounts by the many individuals whose experiences shaped them, their community, baseball and America at large. Featuring historically significant artifacts, documents and photographs, and utilizing audio, video, and interactive elements, the exhibit will tell a more inclusive story of baseball, shine a light on and correct misconceptions about Black baseball.
For more information about the Museum’s Black Baseball Initiative, click here.
When former MLB slugger Andre “The Hawk” Dawson entered baseball lore and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he wanted the cap on his plaque to reflect the team he holds most dear to his heart, the legendary Chicago Cubs. Baseball had other ideas and put him in a Montreal Expos cap.
The eight-time All-Star and 1987 NL MVP has been attempting to make the change since the announcement was made that he had earned his call to the Hall. Now, 13 years later the former MLB great still wants to have the cap on his plaque changed.
On Monday, Dawson who did the bulk of his damage while in an Expos uniform told reporters at the Chicago Tribune that he sent a letter ….
“I don’t expect them to jump on something like this,” Dawson said at the time. “If they elect to respond they’ll take their time. And it wouldn’t surprise me it they don’t respond.”
The Hall responded saying …
“We plan to speak to Andre but have not yet received the letter.”
Prior to the 2002 season players who were elected for the Baseball Hall of Fame were permitted to choose which team they wanted to go in under, and since Dawson’s induction came nine years later, he wasn’t afforded that opportunity. It’s now been over a decade, and the powers that be haven’t even considered making the change.
Dawson’s Best Years Were In Montreal
After being selected in the 11th round of the 1975 MLB Draft out of Florida A&M University, Dawson starred for the Expos from (1976-86) where he quickly established himself as one of the game’s best outfielders. The former slugger had 1,575 of his 2,774 hits in an Expos uniform. 225 of his 438 home runs came north of the border. Of his 1,591 RBI, 838 came in Montreal. He also won six of his eight gold gloves in Montreal, while leading the franchise to its only playoff series win in 1981.
So, if we’re talking impact, and that’s the main criteria, Dawson going as an Expo is a bit of a no-brainer.
That’s exactly what the Hall reiterated to Dawson at the time of the decision in 2010 with this statement:
“You want the logo to represent where this guy made his greatest impact. He was impactful in Montreal. He was impactful in Chicago, and to a much lesser extent Boston and Florida, it’s more of a case of siting down and collectively making a decision.”
To this day, and against his wishes, the decision is being made for Dawson by the Hall. That’s why he’s still lobbying to be heard.
Andre Dawson Had MVP Season With Chicago Cubs
In Hawk’s defense, he did enjoy his best professional season with the Cubs in 1987, winning his lone MVP award. He posted a .287 batting average with 49 home runs and 137 RBI. Yes, impactful, but not anywhere near the accumulation of feats he delivered during his 10-years in the Expos organization.
Dawson Is The First Player To Request Cap Change On Plaque
No other player has lobbied to have their cap on their Cooperstown plaque changed since that decision was taken out of the player’s hands in 2001. While, Dawson is attempting to change that, it’s highly unlikely he’s successful in doing so.
Dawson wanted to go into Cooperstown associated with one of baseball’s flagship franchises. The fact that the Expos are no longer in Montreal and have since become the Washington Nationals also further buries him in history. Baseball probably doesn’t want to open up a can of worms and have to deal with players wanting to change the teams on their plaques as well. So, while Dawson has a case, it probably won’t be heard.
To call William “Bill” DeKova White a true baseball guy would be a drastic understatement.
The Lakewood, Florida native has done nearly anything and everything on and off the diamond across the baseball spectrum.
As a player, White has been a perennial All-Star and Gold Glove winner, a World Series champion, a play-by-play announcer on TV and radio, as well as a pioneering baseball official while serving as the National League’s first black president from 1989 through 1994.
During his 13-year Major League playing career, White was an 8-time All-Star and won 7 Gold Gloves as a first baseman for the New York/San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, and Philadelphia Phillies.
A standout athlete as a youngster, White’s family would move to Warren, Ohio where he lettered in baseball, basketball, and football in high school (Warren G. Harding High School) and college (Hiram College).
Superb Athlete: Experienced Extreme Racism In Minors
White would be courted by the New York Giants while at Hiram as he impressed the scouts with his two-homer performance in the championship game of the National Amateur Baseball Federation tournament at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field in 1952. A year later, the Giants signed him as a free agent for $2,500 and he was invited to Spring Training.
Eventually, he farmed out the franchise’s Carolina League (Class B) affiliate in Danville, Va. where he was the only black player in the league. Not surprisingly, White had to deal with numerous instances of racism from fans including one incident in Burlington, N.C. where he flipped the bird to hostile, foul-mouthed spectators.
Living in the South pre-Civil Rights Movement, got so disheartening that White asked to be transferred to a team in the North, but he was leading his current team in hitting and the manager wouldn’t part with him.
White finished his first professional season hitting 20 home runs with a .298 average. A year later, in the Class A Western League in 1954, he hit 30 homers and stole 40 bases for Sioux City Iowa, then followed with 20 homers for Dallas in the Double-A Texas League the next year.
By 1955, White’s path to the majors was nearly complete.
He was playing for the Triple-A farm club in Minneapolis when the Giants called him up in May. In his first time at bat, in St. Louis on May 7, he slammed a home run off right-hander Ben Flowers. White added a single and a double later in the game. but went 1-for-16 before he hit his second home run off the Dodgers’ iconic Black Ace, Don Newcombe, six days later.
He homered twice off ace pitcher Robin Roberts on the last day of the season to bring his total to 22 as he finished with a .780 OPS.
Bill White Served In US Army
During the offseason, White would be drafted in the Army where he served until July of 1958. Much had changed with the Giants upon his return. The franchise had moved to San Francisco and his position at first base was being filled by an outstanding Cuban player by the name of Orlando Cepeda, who would eventually win the National League’s Rookie of The Year award that season.
To make matters worse, there was another budding standout first baseman within the organization named Willie McCovey, that many felt would be on the roster in less than a year.
Trade To St. Louis Elevates Bill White To Star Status
The writing was on the wall for White and his days in a Giants jersey were numbered.
On March 25, 1959, the Giants traded him to St. Louis with third baseman Ray Jablonski for pitchers Don Choate and Sam Jones. White’s initial reaction to the trade was beyond concerned.
Historically, Black players did not feel welcome in St. Louis as the Cardinals were the one of last major-league teams to integrate. However, White would once say, “Eventually it would turn out to be one of the best moves of my life.”
Playing primarily in the outfield during his first season, White batted over .350 for most of the first half. Players and managers elected him to his first All-Star team as a left fielder. He finished at .302 with an .814 OPS.
The next year, White was back at first base, winning the first of seven Gold Gloves, and by 1961 he was the Cardinals’ everyday first baseman. In 1962 White began a five-year run as one of the National League’s elite players.
According to SABR, he posted an adjusted OPS (OPS adjusted for park and league average) above 120 every year (100 is defined as the league average) while dominating with the web at that corner position. In ’62 his .868 OPS and .324 batting average were career bests.
The next year, he registered career highs with 200 hits, 106 runs, 27 home runs, and 109 RBIs.
World Series Champion
The zenith of White’s time in St. Louis would come in 1964.
The team began the season slowly as the Philadelphia Phillies were the class of the National League for most of the year. White stumbled through the early months of 1964, then came on strong in the second half. After the All-Star break he raised his batting average from .263 to .303 and his OPS from .704 to .829.
In the midst of Philly’s epic collapse, the Cardinals rallied and eventually caught the Phils late in the season as the teams flip-flopped the top spot in the National League standings down the stretch. In the season’s final game, when the Cardinals had to win or go home, White singled in the fifth inning and scored the go-ahead run, then added a two-run homer in the sixth as St. Louis beat the New York Mets to clinch the pennant.
White batted only .111 in the World Series, but he contributed two hits and scored a run in the Game Seven victory over the Yankees. He finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting, behind his teammate Ken Boyer and Philadelphia’s Johnny Callison. As the Cardinals fell to the second division in 1965, the organization began to phase out their older players.
Eventually, White and Groat were traded to the Phillies with backup catcher Bob Uecker for pitcher Art Mahaffey, catcher Pat Corrales, and outfielder Alex Johnson. White would have another stint with the Cardinals in 1968, but injuries would eventually lead to his retirement in 1969. Ironically, the Cardinals offered White a Triple-A managing job, but he had already chosen his next career.
Birth Of An Iconic Broadcasting Duo
While playing for the Cardinals he worked part-time for KMOX radio in St. Louis. In Philadelphia, he hosted a pregame radio show and worked in the offseason as a sports reporter on local television.
One of his early assignments was broadcasting hockey for the expansion Philadelphia Flyers. After retiring for good, he became a full-time sports anchor for WFIL-TV and studied with a New York voice coach to improve his performance.
Along the way, White developed a friendship with Howard Cosell. Years before “The Great One” became a national name through his relationship with a certain iconic heavyweight boxing champion named Muhammad Ali and his work in the Monday Night Football booth.
Rumor has it that Cosell recommended White to the Yankees for their play-by-play job. In 1971, he became the first African American broadcaster for a major-league team—although, despite his radio and TV experience, he had never called a baseball game.
White, along with Frank Messer and Phil Rizzuto served as the TV and radio voices for the Bronx Bombers throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. Eventually, it was just White and Rizzuto, side by side for nearly two decades.
For many Yankee fans (and non-Yankee fans), the running “monologues” of White and the Scooter was must-see TV because of Rizzuto’s “casual” reporting of the game alongside White’s professionalism.
By 1989, White had decided to leave the Yankees. He had earned enough respect in broadcasting circles to call several World Series for the CBS Radio Network, but the Yankees had switched most of their games to cable, leaving only about 60 each season for White on WPIX-TV.
He was also part of ABC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in 1980 and 1984. Eventually, White would step outside the booth and be approached by Major League Baseball.
Initially, Los Angeles Dodgers president Peter O’Malley invited White to interview for the job of National League president, but he said he was not interested. This was coming off the firestorm created by then Dodgers GM Al Campanis’ comments stating that blacks might lack “the necessities” to be managers or general managers. O’Malley called again and White agreed to talk to the search committee.
When NL President Bart Giamatti was named Commissioner of Baseball, White would be tabbed as Giamatti’s replacement. Winning in a unanimous vote, White became the first black executive to hold such a high position in sports at the time.
White spoke openly of his initial reluctance and not wanting to be considered as a token hire.
However, he stated in his autobiography, “Uppity” that “Let’s face it, they wanted a black National League president.”
Ironically, one of White’s former teammates, Bob Gibson said, “Bill had no choice but to accept that job Not for himself, but for other people.”
At the time, White was the first former player to head the National League since John Tener 70 years earlier. (Former shortstop Joe Cronin had previously served as president of the American League.)
Bill White Oversaw Some Watershed MLB Moments
During his tenure, White had to deal with an umpires strike as well as handing out discipline against controversial Cincinatti Reds owner Marge Schott.
He also supervised the expansion process that awarded teams to Denver, Colorado, Miami, and Arizona. White served as NL president through 1994 and for several years after his retirement, White was a member of the Veterans Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Along the way, White was noted for having helped swing the HOF vote in favor of his former broadcasting partner Rizzuto as well as the Scooter’s top rival and stand-out shortstop for the perennial pennant-winning Brooklyn Dodgers Pee Wee Reese.
White Should Be In Baseball Hall Of Fame
On May 22, 2020, White was elected to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame along with Tom Herr and John Tudor. In October of this year, White was one of eight nominees to be under consideration by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2024.
Former managers, executives, and umpires whose primary contributions to the game came since 1980 were eligible for consideration. Voting results will be announced tomorrow (December 3rd.)
When you look back at the body of work that Bill White, 89, has amassed during his baseball life on and off the field, it really should be a no-brainer that the kid from Florida get his day in the sun at Cooperstown.
NOTE: The Society for American Baseball Research contributed to this article.
Professional athletes hold a unique position in society, with the ability to influence and inspire on and off the field.
Atlanta Braves MLBbro Michael Harris II, has embraced this responsibility by establishing the Catch 23 Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to making a difference in his community.
What Is The Catch 23 Foundation?
Harris’ Catch 23 Foundation serves as a noteworthy example of an athlete-driven initiative that goes beyond the playing field to address pressing societal issues.
The young 22-year-old has done a lot of great work in the Atlanta area, including helping those less fortunate and the underserved. An area of concentration is the growing homeless population in Atlanta.
As one of only 6.3 percent African-American players in MLB, Harris also promotes diversity throughout the state of Georgia. If you want to help donate to Harris’ vision and mission, all you must do is press the donate button and give any amount. Harris has an upcoming celebrity bowing night on December 8, 2023, at Bowlero Marrietta.
Through its multifaceted approach to community empowerment, the Catch 23 Foundation has demonstrated positive change when athletes use their influence for social good.
Rooted In Some Laid Back, Georgia Pride
Michael Harris II is from DeKalb County, Georgia, born to La Taucha and Michael Harris Sr. Harris’ father played college baseball for HBCU Alcorn State and his mother was a special education teacher for the Fulton County school system.
Harris had a great career in high school at Stockbridge. Pro interest was high, and scouts were enamored by the potential of the athletic, five-toll phenom, so Money Mike decided to forgo his commitment to play college baseball at Texas Tech University and bounced straight to the MLB Draft.
Harris got drafted in 2019 by the Atlanta Braves in the third round. On May 28, 2022, Harris made his debut with the Braves.
Shortly after his arrival, Dante Miles from MLBbro.com asked Harris:
“How does it feel to be in the majors?”
Harris said, “I been feeling good feeling comfortable, just going day by day and getting settled in more and more each day. Trying to do anything, I can do to help the team get the dub.”
Harris would go on to win NL Rookie of the Year, banging 19 Bro bombs, 64 RBI and a .992 fielding percentage.
When asked by Malik Wright from MLBbro.com, what it was like to miss the first month and half of the season and then “Come in and kill it and take the award,” Harris said, “Once my name was called, I just stepped up to the plate and had to do a job and end up winning Rookie of the Year.”
At just 22 years old, Harris is one of the new faces of Major League Baseball and he’s leaving his mark on and off the field. The Catch 23 Foundation is another tool that the rising star is using to bridge the resource and opportunity gap in this country.