Bringing the Negro Leagues Back to Life in Esports | Sports Destination Management

Bringing the Negro Leagues Back to Life in Esports

Mar 15, 2024 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Baseball is no longer segregated but through esports, the history of the Negro Leagues and the skill of its players are being kept alive.

And, it is hoped, players, particularly youthful players, will take something away from playing: a new understanding of who the players were and why they were so important.

Last year, MLB The Show 23, in partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, brought a new feature to its game: “Storylines: The Negro Leagues.”

Today noted, “The feature has two parts: a storyline mode, in which gamers can watch short narrative videos about the eight Negro Leagues players included, and a gameplay mode, which focuses on important moments in the Negro Leagues stars' careers.”

In fact, one writer at SB Nation termed it, “the greatest historical mode in sports game history.”

The game, noted The allowed users to focus on a particular player, and through this, “to experience an entertaining narrative journey through short informational videos, followed by gameplay reflecting important moments in that player’s career.”

It included narration by Bob Kendrick, president of the Kansas City, Missouri-based Negro League Baseball Museum, as well as archival footage and other information.

According to Xbox News, featured players included Leroy “Satchel” Paige, Jackie Robinson, Andrew “Rube” Foster, Hilton Smith, Hank Thompson, John Donaldson, Martin Dihigo, and John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil.

That feature was so successful that it is appearing again this year, with 10 new players added.

But new players aren’t the only way the game is being kept fresh for this year. Xbox News notes, “A big part of the reason why there is so much history for [Communications and Brand Strategist at San Diego Studio Ramone] Russell and the MLB The Show team to pull from is in large part thanks to the efforts of Black newspapers and Black press who worked tirelessly to document Negro Leagues history (you can learn more about them here on the official National Baseball Hall of Fame site).”

“The Kansas City Call, Pittsburgh Courier and Chicago Defender are just a few of the black-oriented newspapers in the 1930s and 1940s that formed a symbiotic relationship with the Negro Leagues,” Russell adds. “They, along with what pioneering black writers like Wendell Smith and Sam Lacy documented, are so important to this story.”

Because, sad but true, white-owned and -read newspapers cared very little about the Negro Leagues.

These days, MLB is digging into the history that was ignored too long and is even honoring the venues. This season, in fact, a Negro Leagues tribute game will be hosted at at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, on June 20 between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals. (It will be preceded by a Double-A game between the Birmingham Barons and Montgomery Biscuits on June 18.)

AP News notes, “The 10,800-seat stadium, which opened in 1910, is the oldest professional ballpark in the U.S. and a National Historic Site. The stadium was home to the Birmingham Black Barons from 1924 to 1960. The game will honor Hall of Famer Willie Mays, an Alabama native who began his professional career with the team in 1948.”

“It’s an honor. Any time I get to represent my culture like that, especially on the MLB level, it’s always a joy,” Cardinals rookie Jordan Walker, who is Black, told reporters for AP. “All I got to do is stay healthy and ready and I want to play in that game, for sure.”

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