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On the Ball: The historical importance of the Negro Leagues

Everybody has heard of Jackie Robinson. If you follow baseball, you’ve probably heard of Satchel Paige. But what about players like Hank Thompson, Buck O’Neil and Rube Foster? Most have never heard these names. 

All of these baseball legends made their names in a league that is not the MLB but rather, the Negro Leagues. 

The Negro Leagues existed from the early 1920s till around 1940 and was a league of all Black baseball players who were kept from participating in the MLB before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. 

The Negro Leagues were an important part of baseball history that many do not even know existed, let alone the god-like figures that were a part of them. The recently released video game “MLB The Show 23” looks to change that. 

The people at San Diego Studios, the video game developer of the popular baseball game, teamed up with the president and historian of the Negro Leagues Museum, Bob Kendrick, to bring a new mode to the game that celebrates the stories of some of the best players to ever play in the Negro Leagues. 

The mode is referred to as “Storylines” and players are taken back in time to explore the untold stories of some of the Negro Leagues best. The stories in game include narrations by Kendrick and vintage photos and videos of these players on the diamond during their careers. Most importantly, the mode also allows you to jump in the game and use these players on your team.  

The addition of this mode is the greatest addition that a sports video game has ever seen. 

MLB the Show brilliantly uses their platform to create an immersive experience that immortalizes the Negro Leagues and makes children and players of all ages fall in love with these figures that they maybe never even heard of in the past. 

After a few days of getting my hands on the game, I have developed a vested interest in the history of Black baseball and see baseball history in a whole new light. 

Some argue that players like Satchel Paige and Hilton Smith are the greatest players of all time, their stories simply shadowed by the segregation of the MLB. 

It’s crazy to me that these stories have not been told further by large media organizations that so often relay stories of white baseball players such as Babe Ruth, Joe Dimmagio, Ted Williams and so many more. 

In the game, the eight figures that are represented are portrayed as heroes with unreal abilities that are sure to impress everyone. 

These portrayals create a beautiful image of the Negro Leagues that are so detailed that you can truly feel the impact and history of the league. Even the crowds within the game mode are animated to look like what a crowd in the Negro Leagues would like, full of Black families in their Sunday best just coming together and enjoying a game of baseball featuring true Black super heroes of the times. 

Whether you’re a casual baseball fan, a kid who likes to play games or just have any interest whatsoever in Black history, I strongly encourage you to delve deeper into the history of the Negro Leagues and play the game if you are able. 

The Negro American baseball league is a cornerstone of what baseball is today. It is time we stop overlooking it and begin looking at it for what it truly is, a beautiful part of a beautiful game that in its modernity promotes unity and the coming together of all kinds of people, athletes and fans alike.  

Robert is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views expressed in this column do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Robert? Tweet him @robertkeegan_

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