BALTIMORE (WJZ)—They were some of America's greatest baseball players but never played in the major leagues because of segregation. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum of Maryland is educating Baltimore and the nation about those times.
Ron Matz reports there's a big fundraiser for the museum on Saturday.
Bert Simmons played for the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro Leagues. His dream was a museum, which was opened to honor the league's players and their storied past.
"Bert's dream came true with the opening of the museum, which is at 3800 Patterson Avenue, just off Liberty Road. I know he would be very proud of the progress we've made over the years and he'd also be proud of where we are going in the future. This event is going to go a long way to help us achieve those dreams," said Audrey Simmons, Bert's widow.
The future includes Saturday's museum fundraiser at Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn.
"This is our fourth annual event. It's called Back to the Old Ball Game. It's from 1 to 5 p.m. at Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn. Former Orioles, including Al Bumbry and Fred Valentine, are coming. The Oriole Bird will be there. We'll have autograph sessions and a silent auction. We're encouraging a lot of people to come out and support us," said Ray Banks, Negro Leagues goodwill ambassador.
For the Negro Leagues, it's not just baseball. It's about history.
"We are full of history," Audrey Simmons said. "Everybody, adults and children alike, can learn the history of the United States through a focus on the Negro Leagues. There's knowledge of the discrimination blacks experienced, the segregation. There was Jim Crow. All of that was really a part of the history of the Negro Leagues."
"Back in the day the black players couldn't eat in certain restaurants. They couldn't stop in certain towns. They would have to change clothes on the bus. Sometimes they played two or three games in one day. It was very uncomfortable, but the guys survived and the played well in the process," Banks said.
It's a time to remember Bert Simmons who died in 2009 and Baltimore's Leon Day, and celebrate their achievements.
"We're letting players, parents, coaches and community members know about the museum and how important it is to bring the kids to the museum. And some of the parents too because a lot of the parents don't have this information," said Derrick Burnett, museum board member.
Burnett says his mission is to reach out to the community.
"The last three Saturdays we have been out to three of the grand openings of Little Leagues in the community--some of the prominent Little League organizations in Baltimore City and Baltimore County," he said. "We only have 8 percent of African-Americans playing Major League Baseball. After the age of 13 these kids get discouraged. Baseball's not an easy game to play. It's a game that takes a lot of hard work, diligence and perseverance. It's much easier to play other sports, so we continue to reach out to the community."
The emcee for Saturday's Back to the Old Ball Game event is WJZ's Kai Jackson. For more information click here.
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