A Game of Color – The African-American Experience in Baseball

For Immediate Release: January 10, 2018
Media Contact: Katherine Jardine
(415) 557-4295; Katherine.Jardine@sfpl.org

 

A Game of Color
The African-American Experience in Baseball

 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA The Baseball Reliquary and the Institute for Baseball Studies present A Game of Color: The African-American Experience in Baseball, an exhibition of artifacts, artworks and photographs opening Jan. 13 in the Skylight Gallery at the San Francisco Public Library.

171220_postcard_med-resThe exhibition covers more than a half century of professional baseball, from the founding of the first Negro League in 1920 through the integration of major league baseball in 1947, and up to a new wave of outspoken African American players in the 1960s and ‘70s who challenged the baseball establishment.

Rather than a comprehensive history of African American baseball, the exhibition is intended as a general introduction, with an emphasis on key figures, teams and pivotal moments.  The artifacts and artworks which support the exhibition’s themes are being shown for the first time in San Francisco.  Included are paintings by Ben Sakoguchi and Bill Cormalis Jr., and an iconic painting of Jackie Robinson by Michael Guccione.

Exhibition Highlights:

THE NEGRO LEAGUES: Formed as a response to institutionalized racism in organized Baseball, the Negro Leagues were comprised primarily of African American players and became a vibrant business enterprise in Black America.  The displays offer a glimpse into the heyday of the Negro Leagues, from 1920-1946.

BARNSTORMING AS A WAY OF LIFE: During the offseason, Negro League players often joined barnstorming teams, traveling the highways and byways of America in order to make enough money to survive.  The displays feature the colorful history of these teams, from the Satchel Paige All-Stars to the Zulu Cannibal Giants.

PIONEERS OF INTEGRATION: Spotlighting several prominent figures who lobbied steadily and vociferously for the integration of baseball, including maverick owner Bill Veeck and pioneering journalist Lester Rodney.

JACKIE ROBINSON AND EMMETT ASHFORD: Highlighting Jackie Robinson’s pioneering role as the first African American to officially play in the major leagues in the 20th century and his status as the most important professional baseball player in postwar America.  Also featured is Emmett Ashford, the first African American umpire to officiate in the minor leagues in 1951 and in the major leagues in 1966.

A NEW ACTIVISM IN THE POST-JACKIE ERA: Looking at the decades immediately following baseball’s integration, the displays spotlight several players who shattered the complacency of the baseball establishment and confronted management with charges of discrimination, especially with regard to the lack of black managers and front-office personnel.

The exhibit and all events are co-sponsored by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and the Lefty O’Doul Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and The Baseball Reliquary.

Exhibit: A Game of ColorJan. 13 – March 18, Main Library, Skylight Gallery

Opening event

Film screening of Only the Ball Was White followed by Terry Cannon, exhibit curator and former major league player Nate Oliver discussing the African American experience in baseball. 
Only the Ball Was White – Film and Discussion — Sunday, Jan. 28, 1 p.m. Main Library, Koret Auditorium

Related programs:

Called Up: The Emmett Ashford Story – Film and DiscussionFeb. 7, 6 p.m., Main Library, Koret Auditorium

Beyond Branch Rickey: The Hidden Forces Behind the Breaking of Baseball’s Color BarrierFeb. 21, 6:30 p.m., Main Library, Latino Hispanic Community Room

A Long Way from Home: The Untold Story of Baseball’s Desegregation – Film and DiscussionFeb. 27, 6 p.m. Main Library, Koret Auditorium

No No: A Documentary – Film and DiscussionMarch 8, 6 p.m. Main Library, Koret Auditorium

World Series of Baseball Poetry with San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck, Jack Hirshman and others March 1, 6 p.m., Main Library, Latino Hispanic Community Room

About The Baseball Reliquary

A Pasadena, California-based nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history and to exploring the national pastime’s unparalleled creative possibilities.  Its exhibitions and programs are supported, in part, by a grant from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.  The Institute for Baseball Studies, a collaborative effort of Whittier College and the Baseball Reliquary, fosters an intellectual community for creating and supporting interdisciplinary research and studies related to the cultural significance of baseball in American history.  Housed on the campus of Whittier College in Whittier, California, the Institute for Baseball Studies is the first humanities-based research center of its kind associated with a college or university in the United States.