Sports

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Former Negro League players, from left, Neale "Bobo" Henderson, Ulysses Hollimon, Bill
Blair and Enrique Maroto share stories before the Major League Baseball Draft in Lake
Buena Vista, Fla. (AP).

Retired Negro Leaguers Drafted into the Majors

June 06, 2008 04:50 PM
by Josh Katz
On Thursday, Major League Baseball staged a special draft as a tribute to Negro League players who were kept out of the Big Leagues because of their race.

30-Second Summary

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Hall of Fame baseball player Dave Winfield hatched the idea to have a draft for the Negro Leagues players, and Commissioner Bud Selig and Jimmie Solomon, baseball’s executive vice president, also spearheaded the event.

The tribute was held just before the 2008 First-Year Player Draft at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.

Major League teams each drafted a former Negro League player, including legends like Bobo Henderson, Joe B. Scott, “Mule” Miles, “Lefty” Bell and Mack “The Knife” Pride. The Yankees chose Emilio “Millito” Navarro, who, at 102, is the “oldest living professional ballplayer,” according to MLB.com.

“It brought us exactly full circle, because it was something we had always hoped for,” Henderson said.

In 1890, a “gentleman’s agreement” unofficially barred blacks from organized baseball; the unwritten rule stood for decades. The Negro Leagues began play in 1920 to fill that void.

Jackie Robinson would break down the barriers when he became the first black player in the Major Leagues on April 10, 1947. Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey had recruited Robinson for the task in his self-described “Great Experiment.” As more teams followed the Dodgers in recruiting the best black players, the Negro Leagues lost its top talent and its fans, and eventually folded.

Major League Baseball has made a point of addressing its controversial past. The 12th annual Jackie Robinson Day was held this April, for which all the players on nine teams donned jerseys bearing Robinson’s famed number 42. One day earlier, the league promised $1.2 million to the Jackie Robinson Foundation for college scholarships.

Headline Link: ‘MLB honors Negro Leaguers in Draft’

Background: A history of African-American baseball

Related Topics: Declining numbers of black players and racial issues in baseball today

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