Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pittsburgh's Other Baseball Teams

A lot of attention has been given to the Negro Leagues over the past two or three decades, and rightfully so.  Segregation of the major leagues remains perhaps the greatest black eye in sports history.  And while a great deal of attention has been given to the individual players who played in the major leagues, far less has been given to the the teams that played in the Negro National League.

Though I teach English literature, much of my writing and publishing focuses on social history.  I am currently working on a book that touches upon the role of Pittsburgh's NNL teams - the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays - in shaping black Pittsburgh's cultural identity.

I love the research process in general, and though I'll try to avoid allowing too many of the boring details of my work to creep into this blog, I have to say it's an amazing experience to comb through photo archives seeing such storied players in action on the field, and the explore both the baseball careers and professional lives of some of the game's greatest.

Quite a few sets, mostly from Upper Deck in the 2000's, have included some of the NNL greats.  I love picking up cards featuring the players with the Grays or Crawfords when I come across them, and I consider the cards as much a part of my Pirates collection as any featuring a player in black and gold.  After all, these players are integral to the fabric of baseball, and more specifically baseball in Pittsburgh.

Most of the Negro League's greatest players - Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson - spend good portions of their careers in Pittsburgh.  Though Satch is more frequently featured in in photos from his brief time in the Major Leagues, there are quite a few cards memorializing these fantastic players during their time in Pittsburgh.  It's an area of my collection I hope to expand on more, so I'm sure there will be some future NNL posts (as well as the occasional book update).

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