This week was the 46th Anniversary of Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, passing Babe Ruth to the top of the all-time list. He ended the 1973 season with 713 and waited through a year of hate mail, insults, and other malicious treatment. On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron reached the pinnacle that transcended all adversity which held him back before that moment. It was a long way from that 16 year old kid in Mobile, Alabama, who first signed with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues. In his 23 MLB seasons, he went on to hit 755 home runs, 3771 hits, & had 2,795 runs batted in with a .305 life time batting average. There are so many other highlights and awards, including holding about a dozen MLB records. One undeniable feat is that, without his home runs, he still holds more than 3,000 hits. He was the last player from the Negro Leagues to make it to MLB.
This year is also the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Negro Leagues. Unlike, the well documented history of MLB, much of the history has been lost with the years. What we know is due to the sacrifice of those few who have volunteered their blood, sweat, and tears to meticulously sift through hours and hours of research. The history can be traced back to the 19th Century, But, in a nutshell, there were numerous professional leagues that came and went. Together, they form an era of baseball that thrived and became a source of pride and accomplishment in the Black community.
- Negro National League (1920-1931)
- Eastern Colored League (1923-1928)
- American Negro League (1929)
- East-West League (1932)
- Negro Southern League (1932)
- Negro National League (1933-1948)
- Negro American League (1937-1960)
Today, the challenges to raise awareness of the history, and its impact on the game continues. Last February, MLB & MLBPA donated a combined $1 million towards that effort. Groups like Center for Negro Leagues Baseball Research and Society American Baseball Research Negro Leagues Research Committee have championed the way. MLB has plans to celebrate the centennial in the 2020 post season.
The epicenter is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. A lot of thought went into curating this 10,000 square foot space. A group of local historians, business leaders, and former baseball players came together to create the NLBM in the early 1990’s. It’s located next door to the American Jazz Museum, near the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District of Kansas City, the center for Black Culture and life in Kansas City from the late 19th Century to the 1960’s.