By Mark F. Gray,
Special of the AFRO
One of the many promotions that draw Major League Baseball fans to the ballpark for free souvenirs on hot summer nights for the price of a ticket is the bobblehead doll. This hybrid cross between a statue, a trophy and an action figure with a bouncing head in the likeness of a legendary athlete, has become a favorite amongst all sports fan bases for several generations.
To keep the spirit of Black baseball alive in America, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) and the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum are “stepping to the plate” by introducing the first collection of Negro League bobbleheads in conjunction with Black History Month. The bobbleheads are replicas of 13 life-sized statues featured at the NLBM on it’s “Field of Legends” exhibit in Kansas City, Mo.
However, this is not the first time the Field of Legends Bobbleheads have been made available to the public. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has collaborated with the NLBM and Negro Leagues History to produce nearly 140 different bobbleheads since the Negro Leagues’ Centennial Celebration began in 2020. They have raised over $35,000 for the NLBM.
The Field of Legends takes it’s name from the end of the NLBM tour, where visitors can walk onto a field where there are almost life-sized bronze statues of 13 figures who played major roles in Negro Leagues and professional baseball history.
“The Field of Legends is the centerpiece of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and is one of the most amazing displays in any museum anywhere in the world,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. “We’re thrilled to partner with the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum and NegroLeaguesHistory.com to give fans an opportunity to have this collectible replica of this amazing display.”
Black baseball legends such as catcher Josh Gibson, is featured where he is behind the plate in the NLBM’s showcase. This figurative baseball diamond also features players who were some of the all time greats at their position. They weren’t fully recognized until last summer when statistics from the Negro Leagues were officially recognized by the statistical caretakers of the game by baseballreference.com.
These bouncing top figurines represent the iconic baseball players and influencers of the past who were denied access to MLB prior to former Kansas City Monarch Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Leon Day and Ray Dandridge are in Newark Eagles uniforms. Dandridge would also play in the majors for the Dodgers as well.
Hall of Famer Buck Leonard, a teammate of Gibson’s, represents the Homestead Grays along with Cool Papa Bell.
Satchel Paige, perhaps the most famous Negro Leaguer of all time, is featured with the late NLB ambassador Buck O’Neil in their Kansas City Monarchs uniforms. Oscar Charleston and Judy Johnson represent the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
During the late 1930s through the 1940s, the Grays played split home games between Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, which was the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and in the nation’s capital at D.C.’s Griffith Stadium, the home park of the Washington Senators. During those games, they were referred to as the Washington or D.C. Grays.
The Senators’ franchise was so bad they rented out the stadium to the Grays, which was on the site of what is now Howard University Hospital. They outdrew the Senators, which kept the franchise solvent and helped Calvin Griffith pay his rent for the facility and the salaries of the woeful team.
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