Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson Discuss Road to Racial Equality in Sports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While today’s teams are made up of players all colors, nationalities and race, the not-so distant past tells a different story.
“I took a lot of pride in what I did once I got to the plate,” said Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron, who played in the All Star Game every year from 1955 – 1975. “But the most important thing that I loved doing was out guessing pitches. Standing at the plate – [the pitcher] thinking he can throw a fast ball at you, you knowing you have him set up where he can’t and you hit it out of the ball park.”
That strategy helped Aaron break the career home run record set by Babe Ruth an earn the respect of an America, which had seen the game integrated only 27 years before.
“The integration of major league baseball – it was one of the precursors to the Civil Rights movement,” said Sharon Robinson, Jackie Robinson‘s daughter. Jackie Robinson was the first baseball player to go from the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues.
“In 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the barrier, what a day that was,” said Frank Robinson who played baseball for the Negro Leagues, the Major Leagues and became the first Black baseball team manager in Major League history. “I was just a youngster, but I knew then if I had the skilled and abilities to play in the major leagues, I would have the opportunity. Before that – no chance.”
While the Negro Leagues teams folded in the early 1960s, baseball fanatics say their legacy lives on through the surviving players and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
“Had it not been for the Negro Leagues you don’t get Jackie Robinson, you don’t get Hank Henry Aaron, you don’t get Willie Mays,” said Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Kendrick said it’s important to remember the baseball league’s greats of the past who helped pave the road for equality not only in the sport but also in our culture.
“Even though baseball had been somewhat vilified for not allowing blacks to play, when it did open its doors, guess what, America jumped on the coat tail of baseball,” he said.
One way, Kendrick said, to remember baseball’s past is to attend the new Negro leagues Baseball Museum exhibit opening in time for for the All Star Game called, ‘We Were All Stars.’ It will be open for the next several weeks. Then, it will tour the nation.
Negro League Baseball Museum exhibit hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9:00 am–6:00p.m., Sunday 12:00 p.m. –6:00 p.m. The museum is closed Monday.