The Malloy Conference returns in a big way

Clinton “Tiny” Forge of the Detroit Stars. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)

It had been five years since SABR held its last in-person Jerry Malloy Negro Leagues Conference. Way back then, in 2017 in Harrisburg, we never could have anticipated all the dramatic developments that lay ahead. Our community was brought together in 2019 in Detroit, where a committed group of organizers put together a fantastic conference for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Detroit Stars.

But despite how educational and rewarding the Detroit gathering had been, we in the Negro Leagues fandom missed the annual Malloy conference, the first of which was held in 1998 in Harrisburg. The Malloy conference was born from the brilliance and hard work of Negro Leagues Committee co-founders Dick Clark and Larry Lester, and from those humble beginnings, the Malloy — and correspondingly, SABR’s Negro Leagues Research Committee itself — became institutions that attracted the attention and respect of baseball historians, scholars and fans, many of whom, me included, would attend the Malloy conferences, some on a regular basis.

But Dick’s untimely, tragic passing disrupted the flow of the committee, then the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on in-person gatherings for two solid years. So when we finally, at long last, came back together under the Malloy banner June 2-4 in Birmingham, it was a homecoming and in many ways a catharsis for all the challenges and barriers that hindered us.

Earlier this month in Birmingham, Larry said it best: “We are a family.”

And Birmingham was a reunion for the ages, and hopefully the start of many more. In this post, I won’t delve too much in depth about the conference proceedings, and I’ll save giving each presentation, discussion and other conference events in more detail in a week or two.

For now, I’ll tell the story of the 2022 Jerry Malloy Conference in photos. Many thanks to Sherman Jenkins and Signe Knutson for contribition pictures to this endeavor, and if anyone else has some photos they’d like to share, definitely let me know at rwhirty218@yahoo.com.

Scenes from the start of Friday’s conference proceedings.

Donald Spivey, James Brunson and Negro Leagues Committee Co-Chair Larry Lester. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Lamar Smith, board member of the SABR Rickwood Field Chapter in Birmingham, welcomes attendees to the conference. At the closing banquet, Smith received the prestigious Fay Vincent Most Valuable Partner Award, which is named after former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, who has a steadfast, influential advocate for the Negro Leagues and their legacy. “I am overwhelmed by your knowledge, passion and love for the players, and for your commitment to the research,” Smith told attendees. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Larry Lester and Dr. Kimberly White-Glenn, a professor at Alabama A&M, who made a presented comparing and contrasting Toni Stone and Effa Manley, two women who blazed trails in the Negro Leagues. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Author Rich Bogovich presented a paper about overlooked Negro Leaguers from rural Bullock County, Ala. Rich’s latest book is a biography of 19th-century great and National Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Grant. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Larry Lester and Alabama State Sen. Sheila Tyson, who presented a proclamation by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in honor of the Malloy Conference. Coleman-Madison also donated a state flag of Alabama that had flown over the State Capitol. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Larry Lester with statistical guru Todd Peterson, whose presentation ranked the top 102 Negro League players of all-time through rigorous statistical analysis. Peterson’s working in quantifying Negro League stats played a large role in the Negro Leagues finally receiving major league status in 2020. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Conference attendees received two sweet new books. (Photos by Ryan Whirty.)

The first stop on the bus tour of Birmingham landmarks was the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The following photos are of artifacts and installations at the Institute. All photos by Ryan Whirty.

Skip Nipper checks out a bus display.

Across the street from the BCRI sits the 16th Street Baptist Church, the site of a KKK bombing that murder four little girls in 1963. Photos by Ryan Whirty.

The next stop on the bus tour was the Negro Southern League Museum. Photos by Ryan Whirty.

“This is something unique that we have that no one else has,” said State Sen. Sheila Tyson of the museum. Added Alicia Johnson-Williams, who works in Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office as director of the NLSM: ““We don’t say that it’s [the city’s] museum. We say it’s your museum. It’s all of our museum’s, because we are celebrating that history together.”
Dr. Layton Revel, the founder and primary memorabilia benefactor of the museum, who attended the conference despite recent heart surgery, told me: “We’re proud of it. It’s nice to see your life’s work come to life”

The last stop on the tour was historic Rickwood Field, the oldest baseball stadium in America still in active use. Rickwood was built in 1910 and served as homefield for the Birmingham Black Barons, among other teams.

Conference attendee Wayne Davis takes in the stadium’s beauty. (Photo by Signe Knutson.)
Photo by Signe Knutson.
Photo by Signe Knutson.
Leslie Heaphy wings a ball on the field. (Photo by Signe Knutson.)
Phil Ross demonstrates his patented two-ball pitching motion. (Photo by Signe Knutson.)
Photo by Ryan Whirty.
Photo by Ryan Whirty.
Photo by Ryan Whirty.
Photo by Ryan Whirty.
Sherman Jenkins and Phil Dixon. (Photo courtesy Sherman Jenkins.)
Fred Saffold, founder of the True Black History Museum. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Photo by Sherman Jenkins.
Photo by Sherman Jenkins.
Several representatives of the media attended the conference-goers visit to the stadium. (Photo courtesy Sherman Jenkins.)

The proceedings during the day Saturday included more presentations, pointed discussions and the trivia contest.

Phil Dixon, left, placed third in the trivia contest. Contest administrator and three-time winner Ted Knorr is at right. A total of 15 contestants vied for the 2022 crown. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
John Graf, here with Ted Knorr, placed second in the trivia contest. He won the title in 2016. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Todd Peterson took the trivia crown in 2022. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
The panel discussion titled, “Black Ball and the Hall: Justice in Cooperstown?” featured a lively, often passionate conversation about the Hall of Fame’s controversial, ever-evolving policiy regarding the induction of segregation-era Black players. Discussion participants included, from left: Gary Gillette, Leslie Heaphy, moderator Ted Knorr and Steven Greenes. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)

The 22nd annual Jerry Malloy Conference concluded with a banquet and awards ceremony.

Rodney Page, son of legenday New Orleans team owner, sports promoter and businessman Allen Page, was recognized at the banquet. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Dr. Jeremy Krock, founder of the nationally renowned Negro League Baseball Marker Project, updated attendees about the Project’s latest activity, which includes the placement of markers on 12 previously barren graves of Black ball greats since 2017. Efforts on the horizon include stones for Newt Allen, Elias “Country” Brown and, hopefully, Dick Lundy and Chino Smith. If a marker can be successfully placed at Allen’s grave, it would mark the 50 successful gravestone projects. Said Krock: “Some graves took a long time, but it was worth it.” (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Father David Polich gave the invocation for the ceremony. It was his first Malloy conference. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Author and trumpeter Phil Dixon played a soulful version of the traditional hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Banquet-goers listen as SABR Executive Director Scott Bush, far center, addresses the dinner. Bush’s words were eloquent and at times emotional. Bush said SABR’s Negro Leagues was among the first such research groups organized within SABR, having been created in 1971. “Since that time,” Bush said, “the committee has been a leader in everything it does, not just within SABR but across the baseball world.” (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Three former Negro Leagues players were in attendance and were recognized by Larry Lester on behalf of the committee. Here is Detroit Stars catcher Clinton “Tiny” Forge. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Birmingham Black Barons pitcher, practicing minister and Marine veteran Rev. Bill Greason, 97 years young. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Birmingham Black Barons second baseman Tony Lloyd. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)
Lamar Smith accepts the Robert Peterson Award. (Photo by Sherman Jenkins.)

All in all, it was a fantastic conference, especially because, in addition to the former players, several descendants of Black ball greats attended. One was Harriet Hamilton, the daughter of Henry Kimbro, and Doug Foster, the great nephew of Rube Foster and grandson of Bill Foster. Doug said he was blown away by the Malloy conference.

“It’s been a great experience for me,” Doug said. “I’ve always felt like Rube Foster is someone who’s known in baseball circles, but beyond that not too many people know about him. [The conference) is just a credit to his legend and how important he was to American history.”

I’ll close this post (hopefully another article will be forthcoming) with a comment from another descendant of Negro Leagues, Rodney Page, son of New Orleans team owner and sports promoter Allen. When introduced at the banquet, Rodney had eloquent, heartfelt words about the Malloy conference and its “family.”

“All of us are here out of a sense of justice,” he said. “It’s so important that the truth of history be spoken. There is a truth and history that has to be cherished and preserved and passed on. Each of us has a calling, a calling that has to do with justice and truth.”

Preach it, Brother.

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