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Speaking for League Park: The Cactus League and The Integration of Spring Training
July 27, 2017 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
This year, 2017, marks the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier which also coincides with the first year that spring training baseball was conducted in Arizona. Consequently the first black players to play for teams conducting spring training in Arizona’s Cactus League were the first to integrate many of the state’s institutions such as hotels, restaurants, bars and social clubs.
Four pioneering African-American players were inducted to the Cactus Hall of Fame this spring including: Larry Doby, Willie Mays, Monte Irvin and Ernie Banks all four of whom were among the first group of players to integrate spring training baseball in Arizona.
Doby, who became the American League’s first black player with the Cleveland Indians six weeks after Robinson’s debut joined his teammates in Tucson in the following spring of 1948, followed by Irvin (1949) and Mays (1952) with the N.Y. Giants in Phoenix and Banks (1954) with the Chicago Cubs in Mesa.
All four of these crossover players from the Negro Leagues can also be seen as forerunners in the Civil Rights movement paving the way for those who followed and their interaction with major league players here in Arizona during the spring training seasons of the late 1940s and early 1950s marked some of the earliest interaction among black and white major leaguers.
Author and baseball historian Charlie Vascellaro has written a series of articles about this subject and will be making multi-media presentation on the Integration of Spring Training in Arizona including historic photographs chronicling this transformative period in baseball history at the Baseball Heritage Museum in Cleveland at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, 2017.
Vascellaro is the author of a biography of Hank Aaron and a long time chronicler of Arizona’s Cactus League spring training circuit and conducted extensive research on the league’s formative years and the living conditions of its first African American including visiting the neighborhoods where players like Doby, Irvin, Mays and Banks while their teams’ hotel accommodations in Arizona remained segregated.
Registration appreciated but not necessary. Register here
This program is free and open to the public and made possible, in part, by a grant from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC)