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Curtis Granderson is about to touch home plate after a two-run home run in the Hall of Fame East-West Classic at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York on Saturday, May 25, 2024.  


A 'Grand' Day to Celebrate the Negro Leagues in Cooperstown


May 26, 2024


COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Baseball has a habit of being able to pass the proverbial baton, and, in some cases, coming full circle at the same time. No other entity can interpret this poetic intersection quite as well as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

From 1933-1948 the East-West All-Star Game was the pinnacle of each Negro Leagues season. Not a showcase game, but a game showcasing the absolute best in Black baseball. While the East-West game continued until 1962, the period of significance through 1948 served as the soul of this yearly pilgrimage. A pilgrimage which primarily took place at Comiskey Park on Chicago’s predominantly African American South Side.


When the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum planned its latest exhibit: “The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball,” it was natural to also orchestrate a game at historic Doubleday Field. The Hall of Fame planned the game, then baseball took over, and the baton was passed. 

"My earliest memory (of baseball)? I definitely remember going to a game at Comiskey (Park). I remember getting my first autograph from Minnie Minoso," said Curtis Granderson, a veteran of 16 major league seasons. "Minnie Minoso played in the Negro Leagues, and it was at Comiskey, which is ironic, because that is where the East-West All-Star games were played."


In the top of the second inning, the modern-day version of the East-West Classic quickly went from baton passing to poetic. Granderson, representing the West squad, although wearing a Newark Eagles jersey, hit a two-run home run for the first runs of the game.


While the East won the game 5-4, the game, and the Hall of Fame’s new exhibit, are pieces of the puzzle that continues to educate the public at large about the legacy of the Negro Leagues.

In June, Major League Baseball will continue celebrating Black baseball, as Rickwood Field is set to host the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals. Rickwood Field, America’s oldest ballpark, is the Holy Grail of Negro Leagues baseball. Hinchliffe Stadium is a close second, and there is nothing wrong with being second, just ask Larry Doby.


Places like Rickwood and Hinchliffe go beyond artifacts such as a game used bat, or a uniform. Although few Negro Leagues stadiums remain, it is at these cathedrals where the games took place.

"These buildings are historic, for us, it's like going to a church," said C.C. Sabathia, a pitcher with 19 years of major league service. "We wouldn't be able to play if it wasn't for these buildings, for these stadiums, for these men that sacrificed all that they did. It's incredibly important for me to be a part of Rickwood, for me to help preserve that history. Obviously, Hinchliffe is the same way. I'm playing for the Newark Eagles."

Granderson echoed Sabathia's statement and helped to illustrate the point: "Preserve it to the point where people can come see it. As we talk about the stories of the past, it's really cool to go there and hear: 'so-and-so' hit the ball there - and you can actually, visually see it. 'So-and-so' played here. 'Wow, I can step in the same place that this iconic player was there once before.' From that standpoint, I definitely think it's very important to preserve it." 


On Larry Doby:

"I had the chance in 2018, on Jackie Robinson Day, to wear a pair of cleats. On those cleats, I put Jackie Robinson, and I also put Larry Doby on there. Those cleats are now in the Hall of Fame," said Curtis Granderson. "This was a way to say 'thank you' to those two greats in the National League AND the American League. That's where I started my career, with the Detroit Tigers in the American League. If the two of them didn't do the things that they did, you wouldn't be having this conversation with me today. So, a big thank you to Jackie. A big thank you to Larry Doby for going out there and paving the way."


"I mean, Larry Doby, the first Black player in the American League. When you get drafted by the (Cleveland) Indians, that's the first name you know, over Jackie Robinson only because you came from the Indians organization," said C.C. Sabathia, who pitched for eight seasons in Cleveland. "Larry has an incredible legacy that Cleveland keeps alive. They make sure that guys know, when they are drafted by the organization, exactly where you come from."

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