Margie Peterson (far left) and Peggy Peterson (far right) talk with David Bowman and Belinda Manning (daughter of Newark pitcher Max Manning) talk about Robert Peterson‘s landmark book, “Only the Ball Was White,” after listening to a recording of Robert’s stirring address at the very first Malloy Conference 20 years ago. Here is a passionate essay by Larry Lester describing the influence of the book on Larry and his work.
Derrick Jones (left) presents a surprised Larry Lester with a beautiful, hand sewn, Negro Leagues-themed quilt for Larry’s years of dedication and efforts.
Other than taking forever to put together this post, I’m still riding high on the wave of coolness — wave of coolness? — that was SABR’s 20th annual Jerry Malloy Negro Leagues Conference, held this year in Harrisburg from July 27-29.
In my previous post, I kind of let loose with some emotional thoughts about how important the Malloy conference — and similar efforts to promote, preserve and teach folks about the legacy of the Negro Leagues, as well as our very American history in general — to our both those who attended and to the mission of baseball research.
So I’ll try to keep this one light-ish in tone and heavy on picture. In addition to some I took, there’s a whole lot snapped by other attendees, including Missy Booker, Ted Knorr, Leslie Heaphy, Sherman Jenkins and Rodney Page. I lost track of who exactly took which one, so I hope it’s OK if I just give a general photog credit here. Also diligently snapping photos the entire weekend was official conference photographer Louis C. McKinney, who owns a photography business in Marietta, Pa.
If I included photos by anyone else I neglected to list, let me know. Many thanks to all!
And, of course, thanks to the dedicated folks who planned, plotted and prepared this year’s edition – you know who you are!
Just a quick note … the Harrisburg Senators game on July 28, at which the former players were honored, was rained out, which was quite the bummer. I love minor league baseball — you do not even know — so this was a disappointment. As the Louisiana Weekly sportswriters of yesteryear might say, ol’ Jupe Pluvius had his way that night.
One more comment … A bunch of media outlets either previewed or covered this year’s conference, including the New York Amsterdam News, PennLive.com, The Burg community newspaper, WN.com and Gameday Gold (by Thomas Tuttle).
Oh, also … thanks to the ever-gracious and ebullient Phil Ross for the breakfast bagel and cream cheese! Also, many humble thanks to all the new friends I made at the conference, as well as the folks whom I had known or communicated with over the years that I finally had a chance to meet this year. There were many of you, a fact of which I’m extremely grateful.
OK, let the festivities begin!
My good buddy Phil Ross and me. He’s obviously the handsome one here.
Floyd Stokes (left) and Ted Knorr (Harrisburg kid and my annual Malloy roomie, along with Lou Hunsinger Jr.) present their children’s Negro Leagues activity book at the conference’s education forum.
The highlight of the conference for me was undoubtedly the attendance of my good friend Rodney Page, son of legendary team owner/manager/league executive/sports promoter/hotelier Allen Page, who served as a chairman of sorts of the New Orleans Negro Leagues scene for 30 years.
I hope to write more about Rodney and my friendship with him soon, but for now, I’m extremely glad that I was able to convince him to attend the Malloy this year — he lives in Austin, Texas — and I know he had a blast. So thanks to Rodney for attending, and to everyone else who made him feel so welcome at our “family reunion.” He learned a lot, shared a lot and probably even cried a big over the three days.
Rodney and I at the meet-and-greet.
Rodney with Belinda Manning, David Bowman and Jim Myers at the banquet.
Rodney providing moving comments at the meet-and-greet, with Larry looking on.
Rodney (second from right) with former Negro Leaguers Sam Allen, Jim Robinson and Ken Free, along with other descendants of Negro League figures. The members of the group were recognized, thanked and given certificates for their gracious attendance.
Rodney and I with KC Monarch Sam Allen.
One of the highlights of the conference was the Rap Dixon tour, led by local experts/researchers Ted Knorr and Calobe Jackson. It was a muggy day, and I ended up absolutely soaked with sweat, but it was worth it. Rap was a stupendous outfielder for the Harrisburg Giants, among other clubs.
Dozens of us piled onto a specially rented school bus for the trek, which included key stops on Adams Street/Hygienic Hill in the borough of Steelton, where Rap Dixon and many other black residents lived, went to school and worshiped; and historic Midland Cemetery to pay respects at Rap’s grave, which a couple years ago received a stunning tombstone after going unmarked for decades.
Here is a TV report about our tour.
Ted speaking in front of Rap Dixon’s home while a TV fellow films him and Calobe looks on.
Calobe giving the tour bus rich details about Rap.
SABR CEO Marc Appleman with the Rap proclamation. Marc is a regular Malloy attendee.
Community activist Barbara Barksdale filling the tour crowd in about the Hygienic School, the school Rap attended as a youth as Mayor Marcinko listens in. In the background, local kids play to-on-two on the court that sits where the school used to stand.
Borough parking staffers and Steelton police rolled out the red carpet for us. We had a police escort!
The following three photos show Reich Field in Steelton, which honors Rap.
The presentations, as usual, were splendid and quite educational. In addition to the ones mentioned in the captions to the photos below, we had:
- Rich Puerzer’s relating of the importance and legacy of Colonel William Strothers in Harrisburg blackball;
- Jeremy Beer‘s revealing look at the man and off-the-field personality — the true personality, not the one glorified by writers of back then and today — of Oscar Charleston;
- An alternative history of Negro League baseball, in which presenters Ed Edmonds and Michael Cozzillo tantalizingly speculated on what would’ve happened if Major League Baseball had expanded by accepting entire black teams;
- Gary Sarnoff’s look at the role Bill “Chick” Starr — as executive of the then-PCL members Padres — played in the integration of baseball. In 1948 Starr signed catcher John Ritchey as the first black player in the PCL.
- Mary E. Corey’s and Mark Harnischfeger’s fascinating presentation called, “Byways, Segues, Digressions and Detours,” which, according to their proposal, “focuses on a variety of off-the-beaten-path connections to our research into the social and economic impact of the Negro Leagues”;
- Ken Mars’ summary of his in-depth baseball archaeology of pre-1890’s black baseball, including the city’s participation of the 1887 National Colored League. Here’s a link to some of his work;
- One of my faves from the weekend — Paul Spyhalski‘s examination of the role black baseball played in early-20th-century Iowa resort tourism and how blackball helped make the tourism industry boom in the Hawkeye State.
- Todd Peterson’s exhaustive statistical analysis of Negro Leagues’ top-level players to prove, numbers-wise — that blackball stars were indeed of Major League-level;
- Bill Johnson’s heartfelt, personal look into the life and career of the great Art Pennington, who …
- A similarly passionate examination of outfielder Jim Zapp by Bill Nowlin, Rick Busch and James Zapp Jr., who told the crowd how much Zapp Sr. inspired them personally;
- A discussion by Emily Rutter, who made possibly the most intellectual and philosophically challenging presentation — the emotional and historical implications and impacts of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-winning play, “Fences,” as well as the Oscar-nominated movie directed by and starring Denzel Washington (who got robbed of his second Best Actor Oscar).
Jeff Williams discussed the political philosophies and connections and how those factors influenced him and his dream of integrated baseball.
John Graf presented a fascinating hypothesis — what if a Satchel-led group of dozens of black ball players competed in a “fantasy league” for a season?
On top of the research presentations, the conference included three power special panels — a Q&A featuring Negro Leagues veterans Jim Robinson, Ken Free Sr. and Sam Allen, moderated by Carmen Finestra and also featuring historians Calobe Jackson and Andy Linker; the Ted Knorr-hosted discussion on the stellar short film by emerging filmmaker Scott Orris, “There Were Giants,” about the 1954 Harrisburg Giants; and a culminating playing of Robert Peterson’s moving and immortal address at the very first Malloy conference (Peterson, of course, is the author of the seminal, “Only the Ball Was White”).
One more items: At Thursday’s meet-and-great, author Michael G. Long of Elizabethtown College narrated his efforts toward his new book, “Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography,” about Jackie’s religious convictions and how he applied them during his career.
I’ll close out this photo-ganza with a handful of other cool pics, a lot of them from Saturday night’s dinner and award ceremony that featured a massive silent auction, a delectable barbecue buffet and music by the Mark Hunsberger Quartet …
Sherman Jenkins (with his stellar new biography of Ted Strong) and John Wakelin. John and I, tangentially, had a neat discussion earlier in the conference about a 1940’s-era photo John uncovered from Kosciusko, Miss., and John’s efforts to track down the photo’s baseball-related details.
Three generations of Charles Crutchfields (Junior, III and IV) after Charles III received the prestigious Fay Vincent MVP Award. The Crutchfields are relatives of the great outfielder Jimmie Crutchfield.
Donald Conway, Ruby Berryman and Phil Ross.
Jay Hurd, Susan Rayl, John Graf and Sherman Jenkins. Rayl’s in-the-works PhD dissertation is on the Harlem Rens, the legendary “black five” basketball team.
The last two are just really cool shots of the Malloy family.
Finally, here’s a couple self-indulgences — a beautiful signed print of Double Duty Radcliffe that I couldn’t afford but splurged on nonetheless during the silent auction at the banquet, and my goofy mug.
Really quick … some the other award winners:
- Significa contest titlist — Rich Puerzer (his second title). Runners up were Todd Peterson and John Graf;
- First registrants — Dan D’Addona, Jay Hurd and Roy Langhangs
- Farthest Distance traveled — Missy Booker from Portland, Ore.;
- Scholarship winners Jakez Smith, Sophia Dossin, Niger Reaves and Isabella Baynard;
- Robert Peterson Recognition Award — Duke Goldman and Makayla & Jeff Klein;
- John Coates Next Generation Award — Sherman Jenkins and Courtney Michelle Smith;
- Tweed Webb Lifetime Achievement Award — Jim Overmyer, Calobe Jackson and Bryan Steverson;
- Fay Vincent MVP Award — Charles Crutchfield III.
If anyone knows/remembers the other award winners, please let me know. I was too stuff with barbecue to retain memories!
Post-script: 2018. Where are we goin’ next year? The scuttlebutt has several locales tossing their hat into the ring, including St. Paul, Daytona Beach, Birmingham, D.C. … We’ll see who nabs the honors. Personally, I’d like Birmingham, cuz it’s in driving distance for me.
But, my hometown of Rochester, N.Y. — home of the Luke Easter SABR chapter — has expressed interest! Obviously, that would be my ideal choice, because my hometown is, well, awesome. The Red Wings (the Twin’s Triple-A team) would doubtlessly be glad to help out, or at least host us for a game. There’s also the short-season, Single-A Batavia Muckdogs (they’re in the Marlins system) maybe an hour away, and I might be willing to take a contingent out there for a game if possible.
OK, post-post-script: I wanted to point out links to some other neat posts put up on the Malloy Facebook page over the last few weeks. Check ’em out if you can! …
- Ron Auther’s detailed, in-depth series of blog posts about the Fort Douglas Browns 24th Infantry Regiment squad.
- A newspaper column by Karl Lindholm about Spottswood Poles, another great outfielder for the Harrisburg Giants.
- The result of an exhaustive, Ken Mars-led research project about the 1887 National Colored League.
- Craig Brown’s Fleet Walker Day page.
- A TV report about the Bill Gleason exhibit at the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
- Emily Ruth Rutters’ link to the Black Baseball Literature Web site.
- Article about the Santa Cruz Colored Giants, courtesy of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum‘s Ray Doswell.