The phrase “take me out to the ball game” took on a new persona on May 14, as the Hubert V. Simmons Negro Leagues Baseball Museum of Maryland sponsored their Annual “Back To The Old Ball Game Day of Honors.”

Martin’s West Banquet Hall was transformed into a mini baseball stadium and many ticketholders arrived dressed from head to toe in baseball paraphernalia. Hot dogs, hamburgers with all the trimmings, sodas, popcorn and peanuts and Maryland crab cakes were enjoyed by the crowd and also added to the authenticity of the occasion.

The wonderful event began with the traditional singing of the National Anthem by Anthony Brown, a color guard, and the invocation by Pastor Donald Johnson of Lochern Presbyterian Church. Kai Jackson from WJZ-TV, along with T. Russell Hopewell, president of the NLBMM were the masters of ceremonies. Gerald Brown, the deejay, added a bit of nostalgia as he played tunes from the past during the event.

Guests participated in a 50/50 raffle, a baseball outfit contest, door prizes, games for children and a silent auction.

But, a special highlight of the afternoon was the playing of Shadow Ball, where baseball veterans played baseball in a pantomime. It was enjoyable to watch and even more fun for the players. Terry Dear, who called the game, was quite animated and made lots of jokes. The ball players included Luke Atkinson, Al Burrows, Eddie “GG” Burton, Geraldine Day, Willie Fordham, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson and Jim Weedon.

The Orioles’ Big Bird also made a grand appearance and posed for photos with the guests. In addition, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was pleased to have three outstanding former Orioles players sign autographs for the event: Nate Snell, Ken Dixon and Al Bumbry.

The focus of the extraordinary afternoon was, of course, the Awards Recognition segment, during which awards were given to the following recipients for their dedicated contributions, extraordinary volunteerism, tireless service within the community/government, and in the field of baseball. The awardees included: Eddie W. Banks, James Bland,Wilbur “Willie” Fordham (posthumously), Baltimore County Del. Adrienne A. Jones, Allen M. Meacham Sr., LaTasha Janelle Peele, Melvin L. Stukes and James “Jim” Weedon.

Patricia Johnson

Special to the AFRO