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History Of Negro League Partly Written At Miami's Dorsey Park

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Dorsey Park in Overtown plays an important role in remembering the contributions of baseball players who played in the Negro League.

If the park's colorful walls could talk they would speak volumes about America's pastime and how it was played at the 1700 block of Northwest 1st Avenue.

Warren Cromartie, who played for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League, says "Black folks used to come out "dressed to the nines" after Sunday church to watch ball. Very exciting place to be."

In segregated, Jim Crow Miami, the park was a haven and ready for baseball in 1923.

Donald Spivey, a Professor for the History Department at the University of Miami, says "it was the community park. Remember we are talking Jim Crow era. Total segregation."

It was here where barnstorming Negro League teams played.

They were banned from playing Major League Baseball. Blacks had their own major league and their brand of baseball.

"They always wanted to get there, play against the white teams and they did play against the white teams and they kicked their ass," said Cromartie.

Baseball expert Abel Sanchez says many Negro League teams played at the park, "From the Homestead Grays, Kansas City Monarchs, Birmingham Black Barons, Indianapolis Clowns, which started in Miami as the Ethiopian Clowns."

Miami never had a team in the Negro League, but the Miami Clowns originated here, first as the Miami Giants, evolving into the Miami Clowns, then morphing into the barnstorming Ethiopian Clowns and eventually becoming the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Major Leagues.

"They wore Hulu skirts, painted their lips, eyes and all of that kind of thing," said Spivey. "Frankly, they were one of the biggest draws in Negro League baseball."

"After the pre-game show, they played "very serious baseball."

All that history memorialized by the murals that adorn the remains of the park's walls.

"When the Homestead Grays came down in the first game against the Clowns, Josh Gibson hit two home runs. One over the railroad tracks, one of those over the railroad tracks!" said Sanchez. "There would be a special section reserved for white fans and they came."

"So you had folks getting together to watch some good baseball."

When the Negro Legues turned 100 years old, the Miami Marlins wore throwback jerseys to commemorate the occasion and pay homage to the Miami Giants.

Those uniforms were a gesture to the history of Black ball, Dorsey Park, and the greats that played on this diamond in the heart of Overtown.

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