Brooklyn Dodgers Baseball Signed By Robinson & Cobb
HOST: America's love of baseball goes back to the late 1800s, but until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues in 1947, teams and fans were mostly segregated. From 1920 to the early 1960s, teams of African American and Latino players participated in what is now called the Negro Leagues. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City has an amazing collection that showcases the legacy of black athletes' contributions to the sport before and after integration. Leila, there are so many amazing things to see here at the museum, but this ball is absolutely a standout. Tell me about this.
This ball dates from 1953. We have four 1953 Dodgers on here. We have Jackie Robinson, we have Roy Campanella, we have Joe Black and we have Junior Gilliam. All of them had gotten their start in the Negro Leagues before they were signed by the Dodgers. With the integration of Major League Baseball, it took a lot of the best Negro League players out of the mix and into the major leagues. Consequently, they lost a lot of their following. By the early '60s, the Negro Leagues were no more. In 1953, the Dodgers played the Cubs at Wrigley Field. John Moore, Jackie Robinson's friend, happened to be there that day and he had all four of them sign. These gentlemen were all true pioneers. You have Jackie Robinson, after he left the military in 1945, he actually signed with the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the greatest Negro League teams, and played with them for a season. April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black ballplayer to play for a major league team in the modern era and had a phenomenal career. Then you've got Roy Campanella. He came up with the Dodgers in 1948 and made an immediate impact. He is considered today one of the greatest offensive and defensive catchers of all time. Then you have Joe Black, not as well known but Rookie of the Year in 1952 for the Dodgers. And then we have Junior Gilliam, who had a great career for the Dodgers and went on to coach for them until he passed away in 1978. In 1953, the Dodgers had the most black players on their team. They had the four players and five, if you included Don Newcombe, who was in military service at that time. There were 16 major league teams in 1953. Only eight of them were integrated. It took until 1959 for the major leagues to be fully integrated, with Pumpsie Green going to the Red Sox. HOST: Tell me about the other name on the ball.
On the other side, we have Ty Cobb. HOST: Which some people would say is very ironic because there are many who have said that he was somewhat of a bigot.
That's right, Mark. I mean, Ty Cobb, one of the greatest players of all time from the Dead Ball era, his career is 1905 to 1928, and one of the most controversial as well. To see him here at this ballgame is fascinating. We know that John Moore went to Ty Cobb, who was sitting in the stands. He had Cobb sign the ball. We assume that after that, he went to the four Dodgers-- Robinson, Campanella, Black and Gilliam-- and had them all sign the ball. I've never seen this combination of signatures before, and I'd place an insurance value of $15,000 on the ball. The true value here is the history that it represents and symbolizes in being the transition from the Negro Leagues to the integrated major leagues. HOST: Absolutely, and this is just one of the amazing things to see here at the museum, and thanks for sharing it with us.
Oh, happy to be here.
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