The memory of Negro League baseball is alive and well in Baton Rouge, Louisiana one weekend every spring when rival Grambling State University comes to town to face host, Southern University.
This year’s series will be played on Saturday, April 10th and Sunday, April 11th at Lee-Hines Field. Both teams will be wearing Negro Leagues throwback jerseys.
“The throwback jerseys are always a special weekend,” Southern University head coach Roger Cador said. “Negro Leaguers played a special role in baseball history because they were able to tear down barriers with their baseball ability.”
The concept of a throwback game at Southern came to Cador during the 1999-2000 season and the first games were played in 2002. “We wanted to do what we could do to inform and enhance the awareness of Negro League ball,” said Cador.
In every year but one, versus Texas Southern, Southern University has hosted Grambling for its annual throwback weekend which has grown to include vendors, exhibits and visits from the likes of the legendary Negro Leaguer, Buck O’Neil.
Fred Lewis, who wore similar throwback uniforms at both Southern University and as a San Francisco Giant versus the Kansas City Royals admitted he did not know many details about the Negro Leagues, but said, “I appreciate what they did for us. I didn’t know much about what they went through back then. I’ve read some stuff and seen video clips of what happened. It meant a lot to put on the uniforms of the teams they played for. ” And the throwback uniform he wore at Southern University… the Kansas City Monarchs.
Not only is the throwback game appreciated by current and former Southern University ballplayers, but also by Grambling players who wear grey flannels representing Negro League teams. Said Southern University’s Roger Cador, “our opponents also enjoy being part of something special.”
Grambling’s Jeremy Shelby, son of former Major Leaguer John Shelby, said “playing in the game gave me a better appreciation for the Negro Leagues and it was an honor to be part of the affair including the throwback uniforms.”
Former Southern University ballplayer and current Milwaukee Brewer, Rickie Weeks, is one ballplayer who previously had an understanding and appreciation of Negro League baseball before playing in his first throwback game. “I was told at an early age about the struggles and times these players went through.”
In his two Southern University throwback games, Weeks (pictured to the left) wore uniforms of the Memphis Red Sox and the Homestead Grays. However Weeks confesses that his favorite uniform probably is that of the Newark Eagles. And why might that be? For the same reason he probably had a better understanding of the Negro Leagues than most… his grandfather Victor (pictured to the right) had a short stint with the Newark Eagles, a team that featured future Hall of Famers Larry Doby and Monte Irvin.
If you can make it out to the ballpark for any of the throwback games, you won’t be disappointed. But if you can’t be there, then a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri would definitely make up for it.