The Yankee pinstripes were unmistakable as always on Sunday night at the Stadium. So were the road grays of the Boston Red Sox. Still there was a little something different if one looked closely. The clubs wore a patch on the front of their uniforms to commemorate Major League Baseball’s 100th anniversary celebration of the Negro Leagues.
There were other touches that were nice accents to marking the anniversary. The sides of every base were adorned with the same centennial logo as was on the jersey patches.
The best parts however were the videos shown between each half inning. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing teams to prohibit fan attendance, something was lost. What surely would have been a capacity crowd for a Yankees-Red Sox game might have been introduced to well-known and lesser-known stars of the Negro Leagues.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge recounted that when he traveled to Kansas City to face the Royals, former teammate CC Sabathia would make a point of bringing some other Yankees to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. He first visited it with Sabathia.
“The big thing is going to the museum in Kansas City – that would be the first thing I'd recommend to anybody who wants to learn about the Negro Leagues and what those guys went through,” Judge said Sunday before the Yankees’ 4-2 win at the Stadium. “The history of the game and the great players that we had, that's something that's pretty special.
“Every time we went to Kansas City, CC would always take a couple guys out there and just check it out. That was always a pretty special moment.”
A longer video about Buck O’Neil – who helped found the museum – was played during the pre-game. That video, as well as many of the other shown between innings featured great storytelling by NLBM president Bob Kendrick.
The videos shared insights into many aspects of Negro League baseball including several innovations such as night baseball games, batting helmets and shin guards. The Negro Leagues were playing night games years before the Major Leagues.
The between-inning videos – many narrated by current and former big league players – included shorts on Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin, Rube Foster, Cool Papa Bell, Buck Leonard, Biz Mackie, Martin Dihigo and Willie Wells. Satchel Paige also was prominent in a number of the videos.