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Negro Leagues, Forgotten In Throwback Jersey Nostalgia


DETROIT -- I wore a black baseball jersey Saturday night with a Negro League patch on the front and back. There were also other colorful patches from some of the league's most famous teams, including the Detroit Stars, Memphis Red Sox, Indianapolis Clowns and Baltimore Black Sox.

I wore it for a couple of reasons. Selfishly, I like the jersey. It is bright, colorful and sort of had a slimming effect on me.

I also wore it because the Detroit Tigers did a nice job of honoring some of the men and women who made up the Negro Leagues. It was a troubling time when players were not allowed in Major League Baseball simply because of the color of their skin.

There was a ceremony prior to the Tigers' 6-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals honoring 17 members of the Negro Leagues, who are to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame later this month.

This is one of Major League Baseball’s ways to make up for bad judgment and hatred --because we all know Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson were good enough to play in the majors in their prime.

However, their skin was not light enough to allow them to play. Doesn’t that really sound stupid as you think about it?

Thirdly I wear Negro League jerseys to make a statement. I wear them to honor these great players who are dying although their wonderful stories of barnstorming across the country are not.

I also own Detroit Stars and Kansas City Monarchs jerseys, but I save those for cooler weather because they are made of wool material Negro League players used to wear.

It is part of our culture that slips away with every obituary.

I saw a number of colorful Negro League jerseys and t-shirts at Comerica Park Saturday night. It was great to see. But I do not expect to see many jerseys for the rest of the year, even from our black professional athletes who try to outdo one another with their wide array of throwback jerseys.

They wear them proudly. Some NBA players are still angry that they cannot wear them as often because of commissioner David Stern’s game-day business-casual dress edict.

I’ve seen Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace wear a Kansas City Chiefs jersey but not one from the Kansas City Monarchs. I’ve seen Rip Hamilton wear a Joe Montana throwback but not one from Norman "Turkey” Stearnes.

The old ABA and NBA jerseys appear to be the most popular. I am even seeing LeBron James high school jerseys popping up. North Carolina, Michigan and USC gear is hot also. But the Negro Leagues are not

The other day, Tony Davis stood in Tony Dees Negro League Apparel store on the border of Oak Park and Ferndale trying to answer a simple question. Has he been in contact with any Detroit professional athlete about buying Negro League jerseys, which by the way are the ultimate throwbacks?

“I think somebody bought a jersey who was representing Willie Horton,” he said. “Other than that, no.”

From talking to various writers and from my own observations, the Lions might be the team ahead of the curve. Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers has a Negro League jacket, former linebacker Earl Holmes and defensive back Dr’ Bly have worn NLB gear, as has Tigers designated hitter Dmitri Young.

We certainly don’t see young kids wearing them. Davis becomes exasperated at times trying to explain to young people the history of the Negro Leagues. The kids question why they were called Negroes in today’s era where people want to be called black or African American.

“I think this happens because they are ignorant of their history,” Davis said. “And their pop culture is run by urban hip-hop and until LL Cool J or somebody like that wears them, then they won’t know how cool it is to put these jerseys on.”

Busta Rymes and his crew wore Negro League jerseys on the Dave Chappelle show once but the kids did not know what they were wearing. A great marketing opportunity was lost.

Here is another disturbing story. Bill Hottle of Warren routinely wears Negro League jerseys. He has studied the league and respects the players. The other day, he wore a Detroit Stars t-shirt twice around the Wayne State area.

He was ridiculed for wearing the t-shirt both times. He no longer wears it. You see Hottle is white. His tormentors were black.

“I never dreamed when I bought the shirt that people would say anything negative to me about it,” Hottle said. “One comment that was said to me was I was insulting black people by wearing it. So I thought I was being insensitive and did not see it.”

The truth is that Hottle’s tormentors are the ignorant ones. Hottle should have said, “Instead of worrying about me, why are you not representing?”

Tony Dees is one of the most important shops that nobody knows about in the Detroit area. He not only has the largest selection of Negro League wear in Michigan but a history lesson also comes with the visit.

He sometimes hands out literature to young people who simply want to come in to accessorize and look good.

He said many white people are more aware of the Negro Leagues than blacks. That is both encouraging and discouraging. He wants everybody to understand what they are wearing. They are not only wearing cool gear, but they are also wearing history.

I would like to see more of that also. I never got to see a Negro League game, but I heard enough about these games from my aunt and great-grandmother to know their importance. They went to games in Detroit and Atlanta and raved about the wonderful atmosphere and the great players.

Our history is slowly slipping from us and I wanted to grab hold of some of it even if it is in a book, on a t-shirt or on a hat.

I encourage you to hang on to this past also. You can go on the Internet and look up Negro League Apparel or you can go to www.tonydees.com to see the uniforms online.

You might learn something. At the very least, you will look good. 

Terry Foster is a sports columnist for the Detroit News. He can be reached via e-mail at Terry.Foster@detnews.com.




Hall of Fame to bestow

 BuckO'Neil award

Lifetime achievement award to be given in O'Neil's name, statue to be unveiled

By Barry Bloom / MLB.com                         Published: 10/24/2007

Buck O'Neil was one of the most beloved figures in baseball history and a strong supporter of the legacy of the Negro leagues. (Chris Cummins/AP)

BOSTON, MA. -- Buck O'Neil may be gone, but he's certainly not forgotten.

The acclaimed late Negro League icon and American treasure will be honored with a statue and an award in his honor, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday evening shortly before Game One of the World Series between the Red Sox and Rockies at Fenway Park.

"He's in Cooperstown where he belongs," said Commissioner Bud Selig during a pregame press conference. "To say he was a great ambassador is almost trite, but it's true in every way."

The statue, to be designed and created by renowned sculptor Williams Behrends, will be dedicated next July during the annual Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award will honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball's positive impact on society, has broadened the game's appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O'Neil.

The award will be bestowed by the Hall of Fame's Board of Directors at its discretion, though not more frequently than once every three years. O'Neil will be the first recipient.

The statue will be flanked by a plaque describing O'Neil's contributions during eight decades in baseball and another listing the award winners, said Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the Hall of Fame.

"Buck touched every facet of baseball, and his impact was among the greatest the game has ever known," Clark said. "The Board recognizes this impact Buck had on millions of people, as he used baseball to teach lessons of life, love and respect. His contributions to the game go well beyond the playing field. This award will recognize future recipients who display the spirit Buck showed every day of his life."

The announcement comes a little over a year after O'Neil's death on October 6, 2006. Earlier that summer, he was the keynote speaker at Induction Ceremony honoring 17 of his Negro League and pre-Negro League brethren (12 players and five executives). Among them was the first woman ever to have a plaque hung in the Hall -- Effa Manley, the co-owner and business manager of the Newark Eagles.

Without missing a beat, O'Neil opened his remarks with these three words: "This is outstanding."

A 12-person committee selected by the Hall's Board of Directors and headed by former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, reviewed the careers of numerous former Negro League players and executives and voted to induct 17 of them. O'Neil fell short of election.

"I don't think this is necessarily trying to right a wrong," said Joe Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman who is a member of the Board of Directors. "We're just trying to honor a person. There are a lot of people who are not elected to the Hall of Fame that the public, myself included, think should be in the Hall of Fame, and therefore they're not.

"It doesn't mean that we should try to go out and fix something. I think Buck O'Neil is a unique person. Things he did for the game, things he did for the community, things he did for our country, I think he is a unique individual and that's why you see this."

O'Neil, who played, managed and coached in the Negro Leagues, broke a formidable color barrier in 1962 when the Cubs made him the first African-American coach in Major League history. The new honor will continue his legacy.

Behrends, whose statute of O'Neil is earmarked for a prominent place in the museum, is famous for his work within baseball circles. He has also created bronze statues of Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey the surround AT&T Park in San Francisco, Tony Gwynn at PETCO Park in San Diego and Jackie Robinson with Pee Wee Reese in New York City.

"His work is magnificent, and we are looking forward to him capturing Buck's enormous character," Clark said.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com

 Contact the Hall of Fame

25 Main Street · Cooperstown, NY · 13326


City Beat (March 26, 2008)
By Nazneen Miah | Mar 25, 2008, 09:27
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Tony Dee’s Negro League Apparel
History You Can Wear

Detroit is an intricate, well-built nest, historically and presently, of African-American history. The city was an integral part of the Underground Railroad and is home to one of the longest-running branches of the NAACP, which opened its doors in The D in 1912.Motown is also commemorated with many historical monuments and the Charles H. Wright museum is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being a pioneer of its kind. We can be proud to say that Tony Dee’s Negro League Apparel can be added to the roster of historical and renowned Afro-centric establishments in the Detroit area.

Tony Dee’s rhetoric, when recalling the history of the Negro League, is packed with passion. “I’m a bit of a historian — well, I’m more than a bit of a historian,” says Dee. Though he has seen his dream manifest into reality, the man is humble. A vendor's booth at the State Fair is where Tony Dee began his journey, one that would one day lead him to be one of the largest Negro League and historically African-American apparel retailers in the country. So, all you Jordan jersey-wearin’ ballers take note: these are the real throw-backs.

Walking into his store, you wouldn't get an immediate sense of what an impact Tony Dee’s Negro League Apparel is making across the country. It almost looks like a booth at a flea market that exploded into a small, fully-functional storefront. Looking a little closer, the allure reveals itself. It's one of those “finds” that the metro-Detroit area is so famous for. The walls are littered with photos and newspaper clippings pertaining to the Negro Baseball League and just about every other open space is lined with racks full of T-shirts. The spinning racks in the center of the store are full of leather jackets with Tuskegee Airmen and Buffalo Soldier emblems. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are not overlooked in this store. You can buy hats and T-shirts from Howard, Morris Brown College and many other HBCUs — if you want it, Tony Dee’s got it.

Tony Dee is the official Negro League retailer for the Tigers and he has two booths set up in Comerica Park. Dee outfits the Tigers with uniforms when they have their annual Negro League commemorative weekend every fourth Saturday of July; The original red star wool jerseys from the Detroit Stars (Detroit’s Negro League baseball team) are worn by the Tigers and the opposing team wears a jersey from their town. Tony Dee’s is the only place to get these jerseys. He has members from the Detroit Stars in his store signing autographs that weekend and Dee is the point-man for all the festivities. He even has the Star of David baseball jersey from the Detroit Jewish League. His store is almost like a museum with all the American history inside.  

As for what Dee has to say about his store: “I don’t sell junk — top-quality merchandise only. This is a store you'll remember ... and I’ll always sell you quality, so you’ll come back and bring a friend.”

Check out this mini-monument and see for yourself how much history is in there … history you can wear.  |

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