Insight News

Dec 21st

Celebrating Black baseball in Minnesota

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ryanThe 63rd Anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in major league baseball comes as the Minnesota Twins embark upon a new existence in lovely Target Field. The Twins early season play has complimented the impressed euphoria of the fan base, and so all around there are many reasons for Minnesotans to be proud.

Baseball in Minnesota has a rich, proud history, which includes strong representation in the historic national Black baseball days of the 19th and early 20th Century.

Note: I try my best to “keep it real” with my articles, and I just realized the tsunami I just stepped into through approaching the topic of Black baseball in Minnesota. Well, I suppose that I always wanted to improve my baseball knowledge, so here we go because I know I’m not the only one who needs to bone-up on his Black baseball. I also suppose that a hearty, “Thank you Jackie” is in order for shining a light many years after his passing.

It is because of the inspiration of Jackie Robinson Day that a powerful display is now available at the Landmark Center in St. Paul, which casts a celebratory light on Black baseball in Minnesota, the Negro Leagues overall, as well as the many beloved African American players throughout the history of the Twins franchise.

John Cotton, Mudcat Grant, Maceo Breedlove, Lenny Green, Zolio Versalles, Earl Battey, Rod Carew, Marcenia “Toni” Stone, and far too many other ultra-special names, people, talents, and performance resumes can be found through examining the history of Black baseball in Minnesota. But what is most attractive overall are the stories that are born from the experiences that these pioneers trudged, bore, and broke through on their way to making history.

Consider the stories and inspiration that can be found in the examination of the last name I mentioned in the previous list. Marcenia “Toni” Stone was a woman. Not only was she one of three women who played Negro League Baseball, but she also graduated from Minneapolis Roosevelt High School. Considering the poor participation of young African American males in the sport of baseball these days, it’s probably about time that a present day high school young lady drew some inspiration from a story such as this. I mean, she maintained a batting average of .243 and even got a hit off of Satchel Paige. Come on now. It doesn’t get any better than that, and Stone was incredibly spot-on when she stated: “They weren’t ready for me.” It’s 2010 and they still aren’t ready for that kind of Roosevelt High School product.

The Black baseball teams that bore native Minnesota city names provide quite the long list of history as well. The Minneapolis Millers, St. Cloud Rox, TC Gophers and St. Paul Saints were amongst the list of traveling teams in Minnesota. In terms of integrated teams, I’m sure most folks couldn’t imagine a Black baseball player breaking a level of the color barrier on a Stillwater team in 1884.

Yes, exploring Black baseball in Minnesota, and the nation over, will crack open a couple big cans of “What the…” and “For real!” for anyone who appreciates the lens on the World that history can provide.

Baseball is the great American sport, and thanks to Jackie Robinson it became a reflection of the “Melting Pot” that makes America great. But way before Jackie Robinson, there was a Black baseball player breaking barriers in Stillwater, MN, and a young lady from Roosevelt High School that experienced the “crack of the bat” at the expense of the great Satchel Paige.

I’m getting to like this baseball thing more and more every day. Time to talk to some old timers and really get the scoop. Glad summer started early ‘round here.


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