Negro League Baseball exhibit honors outstanding players
YPSILANTI — Baseball fans from across the country are headed to Detroit this weekend as the Tigers prepare for the World Series. Those fans interested in the history of the game will want to head to Eastern Michigan University for the Negro Leagues Baseball Exhibit.
The traveling exhibit, on loan from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., will be on display in the Information Commons South, in Halle Library until Nov. 15. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
The exhibit consists of 90 framed photographs, replica hats, gloves and jerseys, commemorating the famous Negro Leagues. The exhibit is divided into five sections: “Pre-1900: The Beginnings of Black Baseball”; “1901-1919:The Great Independents”; “1920-1931: A League of Their Own”; “1932-1946: Heyday”; and “1947-1960: The Color Line Falls”.
"This isn't just baseball; it's a social and cultural history," said Eddie Bedford, assistant professor in EMU’s School of Health Promotion and Human Performance, who set up the exhibit. "Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, Brown vs. Board of Education came nine years later. Integration in baseball preceded integration in our country."
Bedford was able to bring the exhibit to Eastern Michigan because he is a member of the museum. He has been studying the Negro Leagues since 1992. An avid baseball fan since his youth, Bedford has made the Negro Leagues the focus of his research.
“My neighbor used to talk to me about baseball. I would tell my mother he was drinking too much moonshine because he kept mentioning names that I didn't recognize," said Bedford. "It turns out they were Negro Leaguers. If I had listened to him, I could have started earlier."
Bedford has presented his research at the National Negro Leagues Conference, and created and teaches a course about the Negro Leagues at EMU.
“In addition to being a form of entertainment, the Negro Leagues also provided other benefits to the black community,” he said. “Baseball was the second largest black industry, after insurance, and attendance at Negro League games often rivaled attendance of their Major League Baseball counterparts.
"I think, in all of our histories, we're a baseball fan," said Bedford. "Baseball has touched something in all of us."
Following its run at Eastern, the exhibit will return to the museum before starting a two-year tour of historically black colleges in February.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.