Close to a dozen former players from the long-defunct but still culturally significant league were invited to attend the gathering. Mamie Johnson, a pitcher for the Indianapolis Clowns, joined Toni Stone and Connie Morgan as the only women to play for the Negro Leagues during the mid-1950s. Also invited was Larry Lester, one of the founders of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
Other notables were expected in attendance, such as Birmingham Black Barons outfielder Carl Long, who played alongside future Major League Baseball greats such as Willie Mays, Curt Flood and others. Cuban native Minnie “Cuban Comet” Minoso was another invitee, a player who made history in 1951 after being traded from the MLB’s Cleveland Indians to the Chicago White Sox thus becoming that team’s first player of color.
The attendees said they were moved by the President’s honorable gesture.
“It serves as a reminder of the impact the Negro League had on baseball,” said Pedro Sierra, a star player for the Indianapolis Clowns and the Detroit Stars, after the meeting.
Minnie Forbes, the only living female owner of a Negro League baseball team, had similar glowing words. “It’s just wonderful [to] see the President and to know that where we came from – we weren’t able to travel and to sleep in hotels and to eat in restaurants, and now we’re able to come to the White House and see the President,” said Ms. Forbes, who owned the Detroit Stars.
Although the event was certainly joyous, it was marred slightly by New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez‘s suspension for violating the MLB’s drug policy. Sierra, who maintained that Rodriguez was not a centerpiece of discussion at Monday’s event, offered a stern warning to the game’s current stars.
“I never wanted to do anything that would embarrass my family or the game,” he said. “And unfortunately that’s not happened. And I just hope that the younger generation of baseball will think about a better way to approach the game.”