Category: Community - Original Written by Donald James
They were exciting. They were proud. They were incredibly good. They were the Detroit Stars, the legendary Black baseball team that captivated the hearts and souls of Negro National League baseball fans in Detroit and beyond from 1919 to 1933. While White major league players, such as Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, were deemed the superstars of baseball in their playing days, there were numerous Black players of the era who were just as good — if not better — but never got the recognition or opportunity to showcase their talents to the world, simply because their skin was black. Yet, in Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburg, St. Louis and many other American cities, both large and small, Negro ballplayers treated fans to an electrifying brand of baseball, rarely seen.
To truly appreciate the Detroit Stars and the Negro Leagues, one must go back in history to 1860, the year that many baseball historians believe the first baseball game between two Black teams was played. The game: the Weeksville of New York versus the Colored Union Club. The Weeksville won 11-0. This historic game occurred about 14 years after historians believe the first ever baseball game was played.
Approximately five years after the Weeksville-Colored Union Club game, Black baseball teams such as the Monitor Club of Jamaica (New York), the Blue Sky Club of Camden (New Jersey), the Bachelors of Albany (New York), the Unique Club of Chicago and many others began to form. While Blacks frequently played other Black teams, there are accounts that white teams played Black teams, drawing interracial crowds of thousands without incidents of racial hatred.
However, as time progressed and the game became more organized, business oriented, financially rewarding…and racist, a so-called “gentleman’s agreement” was struck between White owners that would keep Black players from signing to play in major and minor league baseball systems. This unwritten agreement held up from around 1880 until 1947, although there were some rare instances where Blacks were able to usurp the system, especially when it benefited White owners financially.
For the most part, this policy and practice of exclusion didn’t keep Black players from playing the game that they were becoming very good at perfecting. Some Black entrepreneurs started all-Black pro teams and all-Black pro leagues. In 1885, it is believed that the first Black pro baseball team called the Cuban Giants formed. While called Cuban, the team, according to baseball aficionados, actually had Black players who were former waiters and porters in New York.
In 1887, the National Colored Base Ball League was created with a “very unique” window of time that allowed the Colored League to serve as a minor league system and actually play against some white National League teams. It wasn’t long before the window closed shut, after racist attitudes magnified, coupled with Black players showing superior baseball skills when playing against White players.
For the most part, Black teams and leagues created during this period of time didn’t stay around for long, often because of the financial burdens associated with the business side of the game which included team payrolls, rental of playing venues, uniforms and equipment, travel and lodging, and much more. Yet, Negro teams and leagues continued to rise and fall.
Deciding that he could make Negro League Baseball work effectively, Andrew “Rube” Foster had a vision. In the early part of 1920, he created a Constitution that officially formed the Negro National League (NNL) which consisted of eight teams: The Detroit Stars, Chicago American Giants, Dayton Marcos, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis ABCs, Chicago Giants, Cuban Stars, and the St. Louis Giants. Foster served as the league’s president and treasurer.
Foster was a former pitcher who played many years for several Negro teams, such as the Fort Worth Yellow Jackets, Philadelphia Cuban Giants, Leland Giants in Chicago, and the Chicago American Giants. As his career waned, he became more business minded. He owned Chicago’s first professional Black baseball team called the Chicago American Giants. His extensive playing experience and relationships with Negro players allowed him to convince many of them to play for certain NNL teams, inclusive of the Detroit Stars.
Including the Stars in his new league was a no-brainer. After all, Detroit was a destination city with a growing Black population fueled by the robust automobile industry, thanks to Henry Ford and his Ford Motor Company. Foster appointed John T. “Tenny” Blount to promote the Detroit Stars. Some close to the team’s history said that Blount was the team’s business manager and possibly had some level of ownership. Nevertheless, Foster and Blount’s business relationship was often rocky.
Rocky or not, The Detroit Stars, which formed in 1919, was the city’s first Black professional sports franchise and was more than ready to join the newly formed NNL in 1920. The team’s home field was Mack Park, located on Detroit’s eastside.
Built in 1914, the stadium was said to hold between 5,500 and 6,000 people, comfortably. However, with creative arrangements, the stadium could pack in a few thousands more. Mack Park would serve as the Stars’ home field until a July, 1929 fire destroyed a large section of the stadium. The team moved to Dequindre Park, located at Dequindre and Modern on Detroit’s eastside. The team would later play at Hamtramck Stadium, a newly built facility in Hamtramck, Michigan that could accommodate both baseball and football games.
Taking the field for the Detroit Stars’ inaugural game were players like Bill Holland, Edgar Wesley, Bruce Petway, Chick Harper, Bill Gatewood, Joe Hewitt, Pete Hill, Jimmie Lyons Andy Cooper, Mule Riggins, Frank Warfield, Pete Hill, and Webster McDonald. The team’s record in its first season was 35 wins, 22 loses, which was good for second place behind the Chicago American Giants. In the ensuing years, the team was always competitive; however, they never finished first in the NNL standings.
While there were many players that donned the Detroit Stars’ uniform from 1919 to 1933, the team’s most famous and greatest star was Norman “Turkey” Stearnes. He joined the Stars in 1923 and was called “Turkey” because he flapped his arms as he ran the bases. From 1923 to 1931, Stearnes was a superstar. He was a fleet-footed and sure-handed centerfielder who was an incredible power hitter.
“He had a funny stance, but could get around on you,” the legendary pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige once told a reporter. “He could hit the ball over the right field fence, the left field fence and the center field fence. If you didn’t pitch him in just the right spot, he would just hit the ball out the park just about every time. He was as good as anybody that ever played baseball.”
Stearnes’ nine seasons with the Stars is the longest tenure of any player in the franchise’s history. When he left the game, he held just about every team hitting record possible.
In 1931, the NNL folded, with the Detroit Stars meeting the same fate. However, a team called the Detroit Wolves, featuring Cool Papa Bell, played in 1932 in the newly formed, short-lived East-West League. In 1933, another edition of the Detroit Stars appeared when the NNL made a comeback; the league and the stars disappeared after a partial season of play. Another comeback of the Detroit Stars was in 1937 as a charter member of the Negro American League (NAL), a membership that lasted one season, although NAL struggled for a few more seasons. As Jackie Robinson was making his quantum leap over the color barrier to Major League Baseball in 1947, and with other African-Americans close behind, a drop-off in the Negro Leagues was evident.
There are scattered accounts that in the late 1950s, the Stars — under another name — tried to shine again. Owner Ted Rasberry, who also owned the Kansas City Monarch, wanted to field a more entertaining team based on the antics of Reece “Goose” Tatum, a famous member of the Harlem Globetrotters, who also played in the Negro Leagues. Rasberry’s new team left the field and baseball for good in the early 1960s.
While it has been over five decades since the Detroit Stars played baseball, this storied franchise will live forever in the folklore of Negro Leagues Baseball. Even though many of the major players never got a chance to play Major League Baseball, there is no doubt that they were some of the greatest baseball players that ever lived, pitched and hit on the playing grounds in such Negro League cities as Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburg, St. Louis, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Dayton and an array of others.
Last Updated on Monday, 29 April 2013 14:46
Category: Community - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
Detroit’s own Grammywinning artist Dwele and Marsha Ambrosius, the internationally renowned British R&B singer and founder of the famed group Floetry, will perform at a major benefit concert on Saturday, April 27, 8 p.m., at the Max M. Fisher Music Hall in support of the Really Living Foundation, a venture created in 2002 to help chronically and terminally ill individuals.
Conya Doss, a neo-soul singer, will also perform creating a trifecta musical experience. The Really Living Foundation, started by Detroit native John Cook, a philanthropist and an entrepreneur who was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) two decades ago, today stands in the gap for financially distressed individuals who are undergoing kidney illness.
Cook said based on his personal experience of being on dialysis for 20 years, he wanted to give back to the community in a meaningful way where those who are suffering the same fate he did long ago can find some sort of relief. “They told me I had five hours to get to the hospital for a kidney transplant. I had to stop what I was doing and just go. It was kind of a shock,” Cook said in an earlier interview with the News- Herald.
That ordeal would transform his life and later lead to the creation of a foundation that now is offering help to the chronically ill with several types of services, including transportation, prescription and financial assistance. “With regard to the transportation, if requested in a timely manner, we will provide or arrange for patient transport to medical treatments including dialysis or chemotherapy,” the foundation stated. “For prescription assistance, if there is a medication that is a necessity for a patient’s treatment and is not covered by insurance, we will assist the patient in obtaining that particular prescription.
If it’s just a matter of a person being unable to pay his/her co-pay, we will pay that portion, so that they can continue to receive their medication without interruption.” The foundation said monetary help is given to patients who are able to demonstrate that they have a financial hardship which is a direct result of their medical condition. “There is no expense that is automatically precluded, these requests are decided on a case by case basis,” the foundation noted.
Saturday night’s concert, the foundation’s third annual benefit, will boost the work that is being done to alleviate the suffering of those with kidney disease. Tickets are available at the Max Fisher box office or by visiting www.dso. org.
Last Updated on Friday, 26 April 2013 08:49
Category: Community - Original Written by Michigan Chronicle Staff
Museum invites Detroit community to see restored piano and celebrate the history of Motown
The Motown Museum is proudly offering free admission for the community to celebrate its annual Esther Gordy Edwards Community Day this Thursday, April 25, 2013.
Community Day is held to celebrate the life and legacy of the late Mrs. Edwards, who is best remembered as a Motown executive, sister of Motown records founder Berry Gordy and the founder of the Motown Museum. Her career in the music industry was followed by an illustrious second career as an entrepreneur, business leader and influential member of several Detroit and nationally recognized institutions. She was also a nationally recognized philanthropist, mentor to women in business and a staunch advocate for the city of Detroit.
This year’s Community Day celebration promises to be particularly momentous as it falls on the heels of the recently restored 1877 Steinway grand piano’s return to the Museum and the opening of Motown: The Musical on Broadway.
The internationally documented story of the restoration of this historic Motown piano—played by the likes of Marvin Gaye, Earl Van Dyke of the original Funk Brothers, Stevie Wonder and Edwin Starr—began when Paul McCartney visited Motown Museum in July of 2011 and was so moved by its musical aura that he later declared it to be the “Holy Grail.” The next day, after his concert in Detroit, McCartney called the Museum to offer his support in restoring the historic piano. It was then transported to New York in the fall of 2011 where it was restored to professional recording quality with all of its internal components—including its soundboard, keys, hammers, pins, and strings restored at the Steinway & Sons factory.
The newly-restored piano made its official debut when it was played by Paul McCartney and Berry Gordy for the first time at an event to benefit the Motown Museum in September 2012 at Steinway Hall in New York City with 100 patrons of the Museum in attendance. The piano returned to its home inside the Museum earlier this month.
Community Day will also feature musical performances by Detroit Public Schools performing arts students, many of whom were sent to New York City last weekend for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Motown: The Musical on Broadway and meet the cast, courtesy of the Motown Museum and the Gordy Foundation.
“This is a chance for the community to revisit the birthplace of Motown and experience the Museum’s rare collection of artifacts—including our newly-restored piano,” said Robin R. Terry, granddaughter of Mrs. Edwards and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Motown Museum. “We welcome the voices of these talented students, Detroit’s next generation of performers, artists and creators, as we celebrate the living legacy of Motown.”
The Museum is open on Thursday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. The students will perform from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
About Motown Museum
Founded in 1985 by Esther Gordy Edwards, Motown Museum is a 501(c)(3) not for profit, tax-exempt organization in Detroit. The Museum is committed to preserving, protecting and presenting the Motown story through authentic, inspirational and educational experiences.
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 April 2013 00:01
Category: Community - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers host the franchise’s eleventh annual Negro Leagues Weekend April 26-28 as the Tigers host the Atlanta Braves at Comerica Park. On Saturday April 27 the Tigers will suit up wearing throwback uniforms of the Detroit Stars and the Braves will suit up as the Atlanta Black Crackers during the 19th Annual Negro Leagues Tribute Game. The Annual Negro Leagues Weekend marks the first – and longest running – three-day celebration of its kind in Major League Baseball.
The Detroit Tigers will pay tribute to several former Negro Leagues players as current and former Tigers players, as well as special guests, all come together for a weekend full of events celebrating the contributions of Negro Leagues players to the game of baseball.
Friday, April 26 – Atlanta Braves (Probables: Sanchez vs. Maholm) @ 7:08 p.m. (Gates open at 5:00 p.m.)
The Tigers have partnered with Radio One Detroit for the 7th Annual Detroit Stars Singing Competition. The competition will be hosted by Tune Up of Radio One and will take place at the Big Cat Court starting at 5:30 p.m. The top 10 finalists will be judged by celebrity judges Duke Fakir of The Four Tops, Drew Rives, Midwest Marketing Director of Island Def Jam Music Group and Lee Thomas, Entertainment Anchor and Reporter from FOX 2 News. The winner will receive $1,500, will be recognized at Comerica Park and will have the opportunity to sing the national anthem prior to the Tigers vs. Royals game on August 15, 2013.
The Tigers are continuing their celebration of African Americans and their numerous contributions to the game of baseball with a special pregame ceremony. The ceremony will include the “Passing of the Bat” ceremony featuring former Detroit Stars player Walt Owens, Tigers alumni Ike Blessitt, FOX Sports Detroit broadcaster Rod Allen, Tigers Hitting Coach Lloyd McClendon and Johnny Slater of Southfield Lathrup High School. Slater is one of the top senior high school baseball prospects in the state of Michigan who is committed to play at the University of Michigan. The “Passing of the Bat” ceremony embodies the past, present and future contributions of African American ballplayers to the game of baseball and includes ballplayers from all eras of Detroit baseball - Negro Leagues players, former Tigers players, current Tigers players/coaches and youth baseball players.
The national anthem will be performed by Joyce Stearnes Thompson and Rosilyn Norman-Brown, daughters of Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, a Hall of Famer who was one of the Negro Leagues’ most feared hitters and played for the Detroit Stars from 1923-31, 1933 and 1937, during a baseball career that lasted from 1920-45. In 2007, the Tigers unveiled a plaque recognizing Stearnes, who was a league leader in nearly every category. The plaque is located near the Gate C entrance at Comerica Park.
Son-in-Law of Hall of Famer Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, Malcolm Thompson, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Negro Leagues merchandise will be sold throughout the weekend by Tony Dee’s Negro Leagues Baseball Store and Apparel near Gate A.
Saturday, April 27– Atlanta Braves (Probables: Porcello vs. Medlen) @ 1:05 p.m. (Gates open at 11:00 a.m.)
The first 10,000 fans to enter Comerica Park will receive a Prince Fielder Detroit Stars Fathead, courtesy of Comerica Bank.
The Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves will suit up wearing the throwback uniforms of the Detroit Stars and Atlanta Black Crackers.
Several former Negro Leagues players will participate in a special Q&A Roundtable on the Main Concourse, near the Big Cat Court, from 2:20-3:30 p.m.
The Tigers will pay tribute to 12 former Negro Leagues players during a special pregame ceremony which includes Frank Crosson, Charlie Davis, Melvin “Buck” Duncan, Minnie Forbes, Bill Hall, Gene Johnson, Walt Owens, Jake Sanders, Henry Saverson, Pedro Sierra, Ron “Schoolboy” Teasley and Johnny Walker. The ceremony will be hosted by famed radio announcer John Mason of WCHB AM 1200.
Comerica Bank Representative Larry Bryant, District Manager of Comerica’s East Oakland Region and Co-Chair of Comerica’s African American Initiative Team will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The Tigers will honor former Negro Leagues players Joe Douse and Elton King with a moment of silence.
A $10,000 donation check will be presented to Don Bosco Hall by Comerica Bank during a special pregame ceremony.
Sunday, April 28 – Atlanta Braves (Probables: Fister vs. Minor) @ 8:06 p.m. (Gates open at 6:30 p.m.)
> · All kids 14-and-under will receive a Miguel Cabrera Triple Crown Hat, courtesy of Belle Tire.
> · 10,000 Larry Herndon Photo Cards will be distributed as fans exit Comerica Park.
> · The national anthem will be performed by The Brazeal Dennard Chorale.
The ceremonial first pitches will be thrown by former Tigers outfielder and 1984 World Series Champion, Larry Herndon and McDonald’s Representative and member of the Black McDonald’s Owners and Operators Association John Campbell.
A special pregame ceremony will honor former Tigers outfielder and 1984 World Series Champion, Larry Herndon. He will be presented the Detroit Tigers African American Legacy Award, sponsored by the Black McDonald’s Owners and Operators Association. The ceremony will include a presentation of Testimonial Resolution to Herndon by Council President Pro Tempore Gary Brown. The African-American Legacy Award is designed to celebrate the contributions of African-American Detroit Tigers players to the rich history of Detroit Tigers baseball. The award was first presented in 2009. The on-field ceremony and award presentation serve as the culminating activities to the Detroit Tigers annual Negro Leagues Weekend celebration. The Detroit Tigers African-American Legacy Award honors current or former African-American Detroit Tigers for their influence on players of all races who followed in their footsteps.
Former Negro Leagues Players Appearing
> · Frank Crosson – A pitcher for the Memphis Red Sox and former roommate of 1956 Negro League All-Star Charley Pride.
> · Charlie Davis – Played for the Memphis Red Sox and Birmingham Black Barons. He managed the Rockdale Rawhide team (1958-1959), in the Georgia/Alabama Amateur League.
> · Melvin “Buck” Duncan – From 1949-56, he pitched for the Kansas City Monarchs and the Detroit Stars. Before his Negro League career, he posted a 19-1 record while pitching for the United States Army baseball team.
> · Minnie Forbes – She was the fourth woman to play in the Negro Leagues when she played third base for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1958. She was a secretary for the Grand Rapids Black Six, Detroit Stars and Kansas City Monarchs before becoming only the third woman to own a Negro Leagues team when she became owner of the Detroit Stars in 1956.
> · Bill Hall – He pitched for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1955 and was named the Negro Leagues East/West All-Star. He went on to play in the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Giants farm systems.
> · Gene Johnson – Played both first and third base for the Detroit Stars from 1956-57. He was selected to play in the East/West All-Star Game in 1956.
> · Walt Owens - Nicknamed Coach "O," was a pitcher, outfielder and first baseman for the Detroit Stars from 1953-1955.
> · Jake Sanders – He was an outfielder that played for the Detroit Stars and Kansas City Monarchs from 1955-1958. He played in the 1957 East/West All-Star game.
> · Henry Saverson – He was an infielder who played for the Detroit Stars from 1956-1958.
Pedro Sierra – Pitched for the Indianapolis Clowns and Detroit Stars and participated in the East/West All-Star Game in 1955. He went on to play in the Minnesota Twins and Washington Senators organizations.
Ron “Schoolboy” Teasley – A Detroit native, he played for the Detroit Cubs, Toledo Cubs, Toledo Crawfords, Toledo Rays, Detroit Wolves and New York Cubans from 1938-48. He is a member of Wayne State University’s Hall of Fame and has worked for 20 years as an educator and baseball coach at Northwestern High School in Detroit.
Johnny Walker – Played second base for the Grand Rapids Black Sox, Detroit Stars and Kansas City Monarchs from 1957-61.
Last Updated on Friday, 26 April 2013 08:30
Category: Community - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
Detroit Public Schools’ new ‘DPS Open Doors Day’ guaranteed to wow families!
On Saturday, April 27, more than 90 DPS schools will open their doors, allowing parents to see schools firsthand; meet principals, staff and parent leaders; take tours; sample healthy nutrition food in the school cafeterias for free; and see in action DPS’ plans to create Neighborhood-Centered, Quality Schools throughout the city.
The ‘DPS Open Doors Day’ will be held from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. as part of the Open Enrollment Period, which runs through May 10.
Some activities will include classroom visits, instructional technology/lab demonstrations, presentations by teachers, student performances and business/community partner information. Some schools will also feature choirs, step and cheer teams, puppet shows, mini band concerts, Michigan Tech Science Experiment Stations and more!
Unique ‘DPS Open Doors Day’ offerings:
· Two free flights over the city by staff from Davis Aerospace High School
· Hard-hat tour of the new Diann Banks-Williamson Educational Center, a $6.67 million addition to replace the old Kettering West Wing facility for Special Education that will open adjacent to the new East English Village Preparatory Academy
· Showcase of the district’s 17 new or significantly renovated schools as part of the 2009 bond issue
· Dance and music performances by students from the renowned Detroit School of Arts
· Free shuttle buses available from seven Parent Resource Center hubs; the four-hour time block, as well as the shuttle bus service, will allow families to visit several schools in one day
· Free samples of DPS’ healthy lunches, free refreshments and other giveaways, while supplies last
· Mobile Dentist at Ludington Magnet Middle School
· Preschool Showcase at Marcus Garvey Academy and Charles Wright Academy
· Free workshops by The Home Depot at the Osborn Parent Resource Center
· Autistic Team offering information and support opportunities for students with disabilities at Earhart Elementary-Middle School
· And much more!
Individual schools that are open for enrollment include 12 neighborhood schools showcased by Excellent Schools Detroit as among the best in the city, as well as new schools and college preparatory programs with curriculums focusing on science, medicine and performing arts. DPS also offers multilingual education programs, Public School League scholar-athlete programs and Parent Resource Centers.
More than 90 schools open for information, tours from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.; FREE shuttle service; Every site will offer FREE healthy meals, receptions and giveaways!
For enrollment information, call (313) 240-4377 or visit detroitk12.org/enroll
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 15:51
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