FAIRBORN — Say what you will about 2020, but this year has given us some superb evening weather to play a few rounds of baseball.
The Senior 60s Softball League spent Monday enjoying the perfect evening, with an exhibition match to honor the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro Baseball League. Players from all walks of life came together after their regular tournament games, donned replica jerseys of more than 40 teams, and played three innings of softball.
Michael Carter, who organized the exhibition match, has been playing with the league for years. Carter also serves as senior advisor to the president and chief diversity officer at Sinclair Community College.
“We’ve been doing it with Sinclair baseball for a number of years,” Carter said. “We were the first college in America to honor the Negro leagues in that way.”
However, Sinclair has no baseball this year. Due to COVID-19, the college has suspended all sports for the 2020-2021 academic year. Nonetheless, Carter felt that it was appropriate to have some kind of celebration.
“This is the 100th anniversary, let’s do something,” he said.
Each jersey is part of Carter’s extensive collection. Each one is an authentic woolen replica of a jersey worn by players of that Negro League team, including but not limited to the Kansas City Monarchs, Homestead Grays, Dayton Marcos, Cleveland Buckeyes, Newark Eagles, and New York Cubans.
For the past few years, Carter has had unexpected success with these commemorative games among his students.
“I’m thinking these guys aren’t going to be into it. They aren’t going to care,” he said of the first time he introduced the concept to his college-student players. “But they were really intrigued. We had players on the field an hour after the game taking pictures with their parents.”
Though the younger generation may not be able to celebrate the centennial with an exhibition game, it seems almost more appropriate for the older generation to take on the mantle. Particularly for these old-timers, the journey of Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, and Jackie Robinson take on a whole different meaning.
“With the older generation, there’s context,” Carter said. “A lot of these guys grew up watching these players that played first in the Negro Leagues and then moved to the Major Leagues.”
Steve Fryman, who donned a Joe Louis Brown Bombers jersey, said the best thing about being out on the diamond with the league is the camaraderie.
“Most of us grew up playing baseball,” he said. “The sportsmanship among these guys is amazing.”
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