The Negro Leagues were the first successful, organized professional Black Baseball League, providing a platform for African American players to showcase their world-class baseball abilities. The league operated for more than 40 years, spurring economic growth in African American communities and social change nationwide. Last weekend, the Detroit Tigers joined in a league-wide celebration to honor the legacy of the men and women who took part in the league.
The Tigers’ three-day celebration began Friday, Aug. 14 with a virtual “Passing of the Bat” ceremony, which paid homage to the history and contribution of African American players to the game of baseball. This year’s bat recipient, Werner Blakely Jr., a native Detroiter, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Angels.
Later that day, the Tigers released video of an historic meeting of Willie Horton African American Legacy Award recipients. The group gathered remotely to discuss the significance of the award and the role of African Americans in baseball. Former Tigers and past honorees Torii Hunter, Lou Whitaker, Craig Monroe, Jake Wood, Chet Lemon and Gary Sheffield all took part. Watch this incredible conversation unfold at Facebook.com/Tigers.
On Saturday, Aug. 15, the Detroit Tigers Foundation and Detroit PAL renamed a Tiny Tigers youth baseball team the Detroit Stars for their 2020 season in honor of the Negro League team that played at historic Mack Park. The Tiny Tigers program is presented by the Tigers Foundation in partnership with Comerica Bank. The new jerseys were revealed at the Corner Ballpark Presented by Adient, where the kids learned about the history of the Detroit Stars, including key players that made meaningful contributions to the game of baseball.
“We’re all about helping youth find their greatness,” Detroit PAL CEO Robert Jamerson said. “Thanks to the Detroit Tigers Foundation and the Detroit Tigers — they truly understand the importance of grass-roots organizations like Detroit PAL.”
Festivities on Sunday, Aug. 16 included the announcement of the “Negro Leagues Summer Slugger Challenge” winner, featuring current Tigers shortstop Niko Goodrum. The interactive challenge encouraged fans to submit a video on what they’d learned about Detroit Stars legend Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and one of the most famous players from the Negro Leagues. The virtual program is part of the “Summer Slugger,” a free baseball-themed educational course aimed at preventing students from losing critical math and literacy skills during the summer months.
Also, a special edition of Sunday Kids Day provided young Tigers fans with informational activity sheets and games dedicated to the Detroit Stars and the rich history of the Negro Leagues. Learn more about the Sunday Kids Day and how it keeps young baseball fans connected to the game we love at Tigers.com.
Sunday’s celebrations concluded with special screenings of the Tigers vs. Indians game and the film “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings” at the Chevy Plaza in partnership with Comerica Bank. The film was screened as part of “The District Detroit Movie Nights” presented by Chevrolet, a free outdoor cinema series running through Sept. 6.
Throughout the weekend, the Tigers released a special collection of social media content that included cutouts of Negro Leagues players in the dugouts, quotes from former Negro Leagues players on the centennial of the Negro Leagues, Miguel Cabrera’s tip of the cap to the Negro Leagues, and more. Find links to the official Detroit Tigers social media accounts on Tigers.com.
The Negro Leagues began in 1920 when Andrew “Rube” Foster led eight independent Black Baseball team owners in a meeting. More than 20 players from the Negro Leagues have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, including Jackie Robinson (1962), Satchel Paige (1971), Josh Gibson (1972), Monte Irvin (1973), Ernie Banks (1977), Willie Mays (1979), Hank Aaron (1982) and Larry Doby (1998).
For more information on the Tigers’ African American Heritage Celebration, visit the new African American Heritage page at Tigers.com.