Hall of Fame Announces Negro League Inductees

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The Baseball Hall of Fame announces 17 of its newest members, all associated with The Negro League and Pre-Negro League. Commentator Carole Boston Weatherford remembers some of the leagues achievements. Weatherford is the author of A Negro League Scrapbook.

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon. Next time on NEWS AND NOTES: NPR's Farai Chideya returns to New Orleans and revisits some of the people she met in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We'll also get an update on rebuilding efforts and the annual Mardi Gras festivities. That's next time on NEWS AND NOTES from NPR News.

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GORDON: Yesterday, 17 members of the Negro League and Pre-Negro League were elected to the baseball hall of fame. The inductees include the first woman and owner the negro leagues. Commentator Carole Boston Weatherford remembers some of the leagues' greatest achievement.

CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD reporting: As a young baseball fan, in 1960s I had no inkling that might hometown of Baltimore once boasted a negro team, the Elite Giants. A photo of that team inspired me to write a poem about the negro leagues' hay day. Eventually, the poem grew into the book A Negro League Scrapbook.

The players were first class athletes even as Jim Crow laws did relegate them to second class citizenship. The players, most of whom never donned major league uniforms, were equal to and sometimes better than their white counterparts. For more than 40 years negro league teams criss-crossed the country, thrilling fans with crafty pitches, frequent bunts, hit and run plays, and stolen bases--all without benefit of steroids, big salaries, or a level playing field.

Satchel Page, the negro league's most popular and highest paid player, struck out 24 batters in one game. He pitched 64 consecutive scoreless innings and 21 straight wins. Page coined such colorful names for his pitches as Bat Dodger, Four-day Creeper, and Whipsy Dipsy Do.

During the 1932 Negro League World Series, all-star Ted Double Duty Radcliff called for Satchel Page in a 5-0 victory in the first game of the double hitter. He then pitched a shut out in the night cap. Radcliff, who passed away last year at the age of 103, was among several negro players proficient at more than one position.

Hall of Famer, Willie Mays noted, and I quote, "the success of the players who went from the Negro League to the Majors proves how good the negro leagues were."

Jackie Robinson who began his career with the all black Kansas City Monarchs took the Negro leagues' fast pace brand of play with him when he broke major league baseball's color barrier in 1947. As a Brooklyn Dodger, Robinson stole home during the 1955 World Series. Star pitcher Satchel pitcher once bragged, and I quote, "there were many Satchels and many Joshs, ain't no maybe so about it."

The record books now bear out Page's claim.

Led by historian Lawrence Hogan, Dick Clarke, Larry Lester--the Negro League's researchers authors group--culled newspaper box scores and compiled a statistical data base for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The study's finding led the Hall of Fame to elect 17 more Negro League and Pre-Negro League candidates. It's about time. Now, Biz Mackey, Jose Mendez, and Effa Manley the first woman Hall of Fame inductee, and 14 others, will be honored with long over due bronze plaques.

Not only were many good enough for the majors, many more were great enough for the Hall of Fame.

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GORDON: Carole Boston Weatherford is the author of A Negro League Scrapbook. The new inductees will be inducted at the Hall of Fame shrine in Cooperstown, New York on July 30th.

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