It’s going to be a special weekend for your Detroit Tigers. Friday, May 23 marks the beginning of the Detroit Tigers 2014 Negro Leagues Weekend Celebration! This is, in fact, the 20th anniversary of Major League Baseball paying tribute to the Negro Leagues. For those who may not be familiar with the Negro Leagues, here’s a brief overview.
Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, African-American baseball players were not allowed to play for teams in the major leagues. In 1920, the Negro Nation League was formed, becoming the first financially successful, all-African-American League, before folding in 1931 due to financial pressures. For the next 25 years, a new Negro National League (formed in 1933) and the Negro American represented premier African-American baseball. Though a few other leagues (Eastern and Southern) had been formed during this time, it is believed that the best talent was in the National and American Leagues.
The Detroit Stars were a charter member of the Negro National League in the 1920s and 1930s. They played the majority of their games at Mack Park, before moving to Hamtramck Stadium in 1933.
Here’s a schedule of events for the Detroit Tigers Negro Leagues Weekend Celebration:
Friday, May 23
Detroit Tiger stars Torii Hunter, Rajai Davis and Austin Jackson will be having an intimate discussion with young African-American local high school baseball players about the importance of education and the role mentors have played in their lives. Unfortunately, this is only open to the high school baseball players, but it’s still pretty awesome to know that our Tigers are being such outstanding role models for our youth!
An event that is open to the public is the annual Detroit Stars Singing Competition in the concourse of Comerica Park. If you purchase a ticket to Friday night’s game, you can attend this awesome singing competition from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. before the game. There’s a grand prize package of over $1,000 and the winner will have the opportunity to perform the national anthem prior to a Tigers home game!
The main event will happen at 7:08 p.m. when the Tigers face off against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. The daughters of Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, Joyce Stearnes Thompson and Rosilyn Norman-Brown will perform the national anthem. Stearnes is Hall of Famer who was one of the Negro Leagues most feared hitters and played for the Detroit Stars from 1923 – 1931, 1933 and 1937. Also, Stearne’s great granddaughter, Ketera Stearnes , will throw the ceremonial first pitch.
Following the game, be sure to stay and catch the postgame fireworks display!
Saturday, May 24
Before the game Saturday, there will be a round table featuring former Negro Leagues players who will share a few stories about their times in the Negro Leagues. Like the singing competition on Friday, if you purchase a ticket for the game Saturday, you will have access to the round table from 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. in the Comerica Park Concourse.
And at 4:08, the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers will face off in the 20th Annual Negro Leagues Tribute Game, sporting the uniforms of the Detroit Stars and the Fort Worth Texas Black Panthers.
Be sure to get there early because there will be an on-field ceremony to honor former Negro Leagues players. The first 10,000 fans will receive a free Detroit Stars baseball cap, courtesy of Comerica Bank!
Sunday, May 25
At Sunday’s game, the Tigers will be presenting the Detroit Tigers African American Legacy Award to the former late Tigers outfielder, Bill Bruton, for his contributions to the legacy of African Americans in baseball in the city of Detroit and across the county. The family of Bill Bruton will receive the Detroit Tigers African American Legacy award and they’ll also throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
The last game of the series will begin at 1:08 p.m., with Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander taking the mound. The game will culminate a wonderful celebration of the great Negro Leagues and its players!
For tickets, go to Tigers.com. There is also a Negro Leagues Weekend special ticket package that includes a choice of a lower baseline box, upper box infield, mezzanine or upper reserved tickets, a Detroit Stars t-shirt and a donation to the Michigan Chapter of Negro Leagues Baseball Players.
**Featured image from Thomas Richardson/Tell Us Detroit**