The Legacy of the Negro Leagues

Article excerpt

Baseball's Negro Leagues are gone, along with "separate but equal" and "whites only" water fountains.

Fortunately, the stories of the Negro Leagues and the legacy of the players have been preserved. Many people witnessed the recent induction of 17 players and executives into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the results of simply googling for "Negro Leagues."

As with anything that is googled (and it makes your Field Correspondent cringe to use "google" as a verb twice in two paragraphs), not all the sites that come up are worth their weight in pixels.

But that's why we're here with a roundup of the best Negro League sites, both the slick and professional, the amateur and the passionate.

Autographed Memorabilia

One of the newest sites is a noble effort. You can purchase items signed by some of the surviving Negro Leaguers (http://www .NegroLeagueLegends.org), and they actually get a cut of the proceeds, which hasn't always been the case in the past. (The entire business of Negro Leagues memorabilia is cloudy because the team names were rarely trademarked--an unnecessary expense, especially in the 1930s when money was tight anyway--and the leagues were defunct long ago. It's tough for a business that has been kaput for 40-plus years to enforce licensing rights.)

Before the recent recognition by the Hall of Fame, the legacy of many players had to be advanced by a small group (probably less than a dozen) of passionate historians. This group has virtually written all the good black baseball books and the best Web sites.

Among the best is BlackBaseball.com (http://www.BlackBaseball.com), edited by James C. Riley, a veteran historian. Riley has always been passionate about the Negro Leagues. (He was unhappy with the recent research and inductions into the Hall of Fame, saying they "compromised the credibility of the hall and the integrity of the process.") His Web site is just as opinionated. His database of players is divided into "ones in the Hall of Fame" and "ones that should be there." He has profiled what he considers the best teams in Negro League history, and his site speaks with the authority of someone who knows the subject well.

Finding Out the Fundamentals

For a basic look at black baseball history, the FAQ section at NegroLeague Baseball.com (http://www.NegroLeague Baseball.com) answers questions from elementary to obtuse, from the integration of Major League Baseball to the structure of the Negro Leagues. The site also has background on black baseball history and some information on the famous East-West All-Star Game, which drew bigger crowds than the white All-Star Game at times. …