Stories of Black Baseball Experience to be Heard for All Time through The Souls of the Game

(COOPERSTOWN, NY) – Their stories echo throughout time and across generations, recounting excellence and a triumphant spirit on and off the field.

Today, those stories of the Black baseball experience, told through the voices of those who lived it, are heard throughout the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Hall of Fame officially opened The Souls of the Game exhibit on Friday, with 15 Hall of Famers and hundreds of distinguished visitors returning to Cooperstown for the event. Located on the Museum’s second floor in the Yawkey Gallery, The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball covers stories of early Black baseball, the Negro Leagues era, the complexities of reintegration, Jackie Robinson, post-reintegration progress and retrogress, and calls for change in today’s game while celebrating the newest superstars of the era. Meaningful stories from Black baseball are also being added to other exhibits throughout the Museum.

“This initiative began several years ago,” said Hall of Fame Chairman of the Board Jane Forbes Clark at Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, “because we knew it was important to continue to evolve the way this Museum explores the history of Black baseball, its impact on the game and on our country. For the past 85 years, this institution has been focused on preserving history, honoring excellence and connecting generations, and we believe this new exhibit will accomplish each of those goals.”

The exhibit is part of the Hall of Fame’s Black Baseball Initiative that includes additional outreach programs, educational materials and virtual programming and is made possible by the Yawkey Foundation with additional support from Bill Janetschek in honor of his siblings Robert and Ann, the Anthony A. Yoseloff Foundation and the Bisignano Family.

“This initiative is absolutely critical to fostering learning, understanding, and courageous conversations which stem from both the painful chapters of our nation’s history, and from the often hard-won victories by some of the greatest players and personalities in and around baseball,” said John L. Harrington, Chairman of the Yawkey Foundation. “It is our hope that this initiative and exhibit shine a light on the many important, complex, and nuanced stories that need to be told, especially by individuals with lived experiences.”

The Souls of the Game, a title that pays tribute to W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal 1903 book “The Souls of Black Folk,” explores the Black baseball experience of those men, women and children who were and are an integral part of our National Pastime.

Subtitled “Voices of Black Baseball”, the exhibit highlights first-person accounts by the many individuals whose experiences shaped them, their community, baseball and America at large. Featuring historically significant artifacts, documents and photographs, and utilizing audio, video, and interactive elements, the exhibit tells a more inclusive story of baseball while shining a light on and correcting misconceptions about Black baseball.

The exhibit opening was part of a historic weekend celebrating the history of Black baseball that also included the dedication of a new Hank Aaron statue in the Museum on Thursday and will feature the Hall of Fame East-West Classic legends game on Saturday. Hall of Famers on hand for the celebration include Harold Baines, Rollie Fingers, Pat Gillick, Ken Griffey Jr., Fergie Jenkins, Jim Kaat, Fred McGriff, Eddie Murray, Jim Rice, Ryne Sandberg, Bud Selig, Lee Smith, Ozzie Smith, Joe Torre and Dave Winfield.