Over the Memorial Day weekend, baseball fan as well as some of baseball’s greatest legends gathered under sunny skies in Cooperstown, New York for the inaugural East-West Classic game sponsored by The Players Alliance, the collective created by current and former ballplayers of both genders to ensure the equality of opportunities for minority players. The East-West Classic, played at Doubleday Field, arguably one of baseball’s very first diamonds, paid homage to the Negro Leagues, who are the pioneers of Black baseball. Cooperstown simultaneously presented a special treat for the attendees of the game, with the unveiling of the Souls Of The Game exhibit in the Baseball Hall Of Fame, which is only a few blocks down Main Street from Doubleday Field.

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Vendors and fans jammed the entrance Saturday morning before the game just to get a glimpse of some of the players who were just arriving for warm up while a large portion of the attendees perused the new exhibit for free, courtesy of The Players Alliance. The who’s who of Black baseball players were not only in attendance, but ready to take the field. The rosters on both teams spanned several generations of ballplayers, yet all are legends in their own right including Curtis Granderson, B.J. and Justin Upton, Dave Winfield, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Russell Martin, Fred McGriff, Adam Jones(who won the Home Run Derby), Ken Griffey Jr., Little League World Series legend Mo’ne Davis, Negro Leaguers Sam Allen and Fergie Wilson and many more. Notable attendees include Linda Paige(daughter of Hall Of Famer and Negro Leaguer Satchel Paige), Hall Of Famer Ozzie Smith, Negro League Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick, Players Alliance Executive Director Margarette Purvis and many others.

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CC Sabathia, former Yankees Pitcher and Vice Chairman of The Players Alliance said, “I think it’s incredibly important that we keep this legacy alive…Black baseball and Black voices in baseball. To be out here and be able to represent the Negro Leagues..the Indianapolis Clowns, the Newark Eagles, whose uniform I’m wearing…and to see all of my homeboys out here!” He continued, “I think that it’s super necessary that we tell these stories because these were the LeBron James and Kyrie Irvings of that day. Satchel Paige had his own plane flying around in the 60s, know what I’m sayin’? They were selling out stadiums 50 to 60 thousand people every night, so these were the real superstars of the game. To be able to represent that means a lot.”

East-West Classic/Souls Of The Game in Cooperstown

The Souls Of The Game explores more than just Black and Brown baseball players who made it to the big leagues; the exhibit captures the emotional narrative of minority players who had to play on segregated teams during the country’s racist infancy. Statues of home run king Hank Aaron, Negro League great John “Buck” O’Neil and baseball icon Jackie Robinson flanked the first floor lobby while lines wrapped through several adjacent exhibits in order to get a glimpse of Souls of The Game. Original uniforms from teams such as the Newark Eagles, Birmingham Black Barons, Homestead Grays, Kansas City Monarchs, New York Black Yankess and other teams who could only play other Black and Latin teams, lined the showcases of the exhibit. There was also an unofficial film called The Stories Of Black Baseball, which played outside of the exhibit hall for only a few minutes, but showing some never-before-seen footage of Black baseball players. The Stories Of Black Baseball included the 1955 Cannon Street YMCA All Stars out of Charleston, South Carolina, who were a team of all Black Little Leaguers who went undefeated, but were not allowed to play in the Little League World Series because all of their white opponents forfeited their games because they were Black.

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s for the game, the East was definitely in the house as Player of the Game Ryan Howard blasted a three-run homer to give the East a 5-4 victory over the West.