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Friday, February 2nd at 9PM on WLRN TV

About the Documentary

WLRN Public Television’s latest one-hour documentary Never Drop the Ball explores the extraordinary journey black baseball players went through during six decades of being outside of Major League Baseball until rebreaking the color barrier in 1947 with Jackie Robinson at the helm. Their unwavering love for the game led them to form leagues of their own. These Leagues showcased incredible teams like the Miami Giants, later known as the Indianapolis Clowns. Their talent captivated audiences with their dynamic playstyle and teamwork in the United States and internationally. Despite the challenges of the Jim Crow era, black players' dedication to baseball and their barnstorming tours left an enduring mark on the sport's history.

In 2020, a century later, Negro Leagues were recognized with the distinction of a Major League by the same league that kept them out for so long. With this distinction, historians, players' relatives, baseball researchers, and educators find themselves rewriting history as they uncover the fascinating legacy these extraordinary athletes left behind.

Featuring the most authorized spokesman about Negro Leagues Baseball today is Mr. Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. His voice is part of PlayStation's sensational baseball video game, "The Show." This one-hour film will step back in time to the late 1800s, an era when professional Major League Baseball was born, but the color line divided the field. In the face of adversity, black baseball players demonstrated a love for the game that transcended the discriminatory Jim Crow laws. Florida's hotel industry became an unexpected ally, with establishments like the Breakers, Royal Poinciana, and Royal Palm hosting thrilling baseball games to entertain tourists. Henry Flagler, visionary and entrepreneur, recognized the talent within these "freewheeling freelance" teams and harnessed their skills to enrich his budding tourist industry. As communities rallied behind these players, the vibrant Overtown in Miami emerged, boasting Dorsey Park and its home team, the Miami Giants, who, though not part of the professional Negro Leagues, made their mark as the Indianapolis Clowns. This extraordinary journey showcases the enduring spirit of black baseball players, weaving them into the tapestry of African American culture and igniting a baseball revolution that would sweep across America and beyond.

The emergence of the Negro Leagues in 1920, masterminded by former player Rube Foster, ushered in a new era of baseball. It was dynamic, fast, creative, and the snappy qualities captured the hearts of fans everywhere. Facing limited access to stadiums owned by Major League Baseball, the Negro Leagues adopted unconventional schedules, pioneering night baseball, and Sunday games to attract the working class. Superstars like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Martin Dihigo drew massive crowds wherever they went, breathing life into the sport. Beyond the borders of the United States, they played in countries like Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Japan, boosting local teams and spreading the gospel of Negro Leagues baseball. In stark contrast to segregated America, these players were celebrated as heroes, transcending the label of "black baseball players" to simply "baseball players."

The culmination of their legacy was the East-West All-Star game, a monumental event that drew both Black and White fans, filling Comiskey Park with 50,000 spectators. The Negro Leagues, while generating substantial revenue for themselves, also indirectly supported Major League Baseball through stadium rentals. Pressure to integrate the Major Leagues grew, with supporters torn between the success of the Negro Leagues and the desire to develop the league further. In 1947, Jackie Robinson shattered the color barrier, marking a pivotal moment in history that would ultimately spell the end of the Negro Leagues. Fast forward to 2020, a century after the Negro Leagues' inception, and Major League Baseball officially recognized them as a Major League, vindicating over 3,400 players.

Never Drop the Ball shares how their love for the game, unwavering persistence, and sheer courage shaped history in ways they never could have imagined. The Negro Leagues pioneered baseball abroad, introduced night games, and shaped the style of baseball played worldwide today. Their legacy endures in global baseball leagues, exemplified by events like the Baseball World Classic, which brought together these trailblazers' excitement, talent, and spirit. In 2023, Loan Depot Park in Miami, Japan's National baseball team, claimed victory, showcasing the snappy brand of baseball learned from the black players of yesteryears, proving that the Negro Leagues' influence still reverberates throughout the world of baseball.