Rochester’s Roots: Negro Leagues finally recognized as Major Leagues

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The sport of baseball is part of the fabric of America, every year millions of people across our country gather together to enjoy a night at the ballpark. But for decades, the contributions of many former black players were ignored, that was until last December when a major shift in the history of baseball took place… and it involved a team that played right here in Rochester.

“Their story is as American as any story, it is filled with the American spirit,” Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick said.

For generations, baseball in America was very white, not just on the field, but in the record books. Sixty years ago Major League Baseball purposefully chose to ignore statistics of Negro League baseball players, some, who competed right here in Rochester. But that all changed in December, that’s when Major League Baseball said that it will officially recognize the Negro Leagues as major league caliber. MLB will also work to incorporate Negro League statistics into the Major League record books. That news brings huge joy to Bob Kendrick, the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

“It fills me with tremendous pride because these players who adorn this field and the other images we have here at the Negro League Museum symbolize those who overcame tremendous social adversity to go on to greatness,” Kendrick said.

Life for players in the Negro Leagues was difficult.

“The challenge wasn’t as much about baseball, the challenge was everything that transcended as they moved around this country not knowing where you could get something to eat, not knowing where you could stay,” Kendrick said. “Oftentimes playing in Major League stadiums but couldn’t use the facilities, can’t use the showers, can’t use the restroom, can’t wash your uniform so you had to hang it out the window to let it dry, those were the challenges.”

Due to a myriad of challenges, the New York Black Yankees moved their team to Rochester in 1948 to play their home games in Red Wings Stadium. And because Rochester was home to an entire season’s worth of Negro League games, the city of Rochester is now even more connected to baseball’s history because Negro League games that were played here will be included in major league statistics.

“It was an acknowledgment of what they had accomplished in the face of that adversity, what they had done in building the Negro Leagues and the impact the leagues would have on Major League Baseball,” Kendrick said. “the Negro Leagues are an important part of the history of this game, it’s an important part of the history of this country.”

America’s game, doing its best to include all of America.