GARDENA (CBSLA.com) — In the combined spirits of Black History Month with the initial stages of Spring Training, marking the official approach of the 2014 baseball season, a special exhibit has taken to the road and made a stop in Southern California to educate Angelenos about the history of the Negro Leagues.
The traveling exhibit, part of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, aims to give people a deeper understanding of the All-American game of baseball when it was still segregated between white and black players.
Despite the separation at the time, the game itself was the exact same, yet the exclusiveness of the major leagues to white players remained consistent until the late 1940s.
Through the exhibit, a number of former Negro League players had the opportunity to share their stories.
“Everywhere we went, we acted like gentlemen,” former Negro League pitcher Shepard Porter said. “So that’s why I liked the team. It makes me feel good, because, at that time, we thought we may not get respect.”
People, including collectors, who took part in the exhibit provided a number of items to display, and many had a personal history with the game as it once existed.
“My special interest with all that I brought here for this exhibit, I was inspired by my father to learn as much as I possibly could about baseball and the negro leagues,” collector Marie Demery Goree said.
Visitors, too, proved to have a special relationship with one of the richest parts about the history of the game of baseball. Rodrick Carter, whose father, Ernest “Spoon” Carter played in the Negro Leagues, traveled all the way from Texas in order to view the exhibit, in hopes of seeing a picture of his father.
“While in here, I’ve seen several pictures with his picture on it,” Carter said. “And this is the one I distinctly remember, because I have a copy of this at home, when I was coming up.”
Dodger greats, including Don Newcombe, Jim Gilliam, Roy Campanella, and Jackie Robinson all played in the Negro Leagues before making their impact on the majors.
Robinson’s groundbreaking entrance into the Major Leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 brought the segregated Negro Leagues to an end, providing an opportunity for men of color to play in a league that, until then, was exclusively white.
“Oh, I was really joyful when (Robinson) got on the team,” Porter said. “Oh my, I thought there is a possibility some more were going to get on.”
Porter was right.
Men like Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Larry Doby and Willie Mays were among the most effectual players to break into the majors. All of them, likewise, had a history in the Negro Leagues that, thanks to the exhibit and the NLBM, is now being told.
“It makes me feel real good that they are doing something to remember the thing that we did back in the past.”
While the exhibit in Gardena has wrapped up and moved on, anyone with interest in the exhibits still scheduled, or in the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in general, can visit their website.