A century after Rube Foster gathered his fellow team owners at the Kansas City YMCA to form the Negro National League, the broader legacy of the Negro Leagues and its forgotten stars is still being written.
We’ve been covering the efforts to restore former Negro Leagues ballparks for several years and will amp up that effort in coming months. The stories behind Hamtramck Stadium and Rickwood Field and Hinchliffe Stadium deserve to reach a wider audience, to be sure.
A wider swath of untold stories, however, relate to the actual play on the field. Ballplayers like Henry Aaron and Willie Mays–who began their storied careers in the Negro Leagues–receive a lot of attention for their early exploits, but there’s a wealth of players whose stories aren’t told. Documenting the daily results in Negro Leagues play has been uneven, at best: not every game featured game-day reporting, and access to old newspapers can be quite limited. Plus, there’s been the bias that Negro Leagues action wasn’t worthy of the same level of analysis as MLB play.
Tonight’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, debuting at 10 p.m. Eastern on HBO, tackles the issue of evaluating and researching Negro Leagues play. According to an HBO press release, “The [Negro Leagues] history itself, they say, is segregated from the official record of the game, just as black players were segregated from the Major Leagues. Bryant Gumbel explores why Negro League statistics are still not recognized as part of the official history of the game, and why the Hall of Fame has not elected a Negro League player since 2006.”
Check out the clip. There’s a whole slew of research into Negro Leagues history that deserves a wider audience.