On May 7, 2009 then Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill declaring the second Saturday in May as Negro League Baseball Day in Maryland.
This weekend they are celebrating at a rather unique venue.
“I am so happy, overjoyed that we are going to acknowledge a day that hardly anybody even knows about,” said Ray Banks, co-founder Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball. “Negro League Baseball Day is very, very special to me in my heart.”
For the first time Banks will bring his extensive collection of memorabilia downtown for the big day to celebrate at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum on Emory Street.
“Back in the day of segregated baseball, Negro League Baseball was a pretty big deal,” said Ruth Museum historian Michael Gibbons. “It especially was here in Baltimore where we had two championship teams.”
Saturday’s event will also feature a VIP panel discussion about not only the Negro Leagues, but also racism in sports today.
“People have been through things themselves, hands on, first-hand experience. That means a whole lot,” said Banks.
This discussion is extremely timely for local baseball fans wanting to continue to engage in the topic of racism in the game, after Orioles All-Star Adam Jones came forward last week saying he was the subject of racial slurs directed toward him during a game in Boston. One of the panel members will be Jones’ father-in-law, former pro athlete, Jean Fugett.
“I think it will be interesting to hear Jean’s feelings about all of this,” said Gibbons. “It’s his son-in-law. How hurtful is this?”
“It makes you wonder where are we in today’s world? Especially sports,” added Banks.
Some of the other panelists include: Former Oriole Al Bumbry, former Oriole and Washington Senator Fred Valentine, former Negro League player Pedro Sierra and female Negro League pitcher Mamie “Peanut” Johnson.
Saturday’s event is from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Tickets are free with admission to the museum. Cost for admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids.