A BASEBALL SUMMER: The Magic City inds itself at the center of the baseball world this summer, with lots of special events taking place here due to the ongoing celebration of the centennial of Rickwood Field, the oldest professional baseball park in the United States. The latest, and one of the most prestigious, of these events begins today, when the city hosts the 13th annual Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference. The event, which runs from Thursday, July 15, through Saturday, July 17, will take place at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) and the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel. The conference, which is described on its web site as the “biggest and best black baseball conference” this year, will celebrate the Rickwood centennial and the role the Negro Leagues played in the park’s storied history. Rickwood had a long association with the Birmingham Black Barons of the old Negro Leagues. Thanks to the Black Barons, local baseball fans had the opportunity to see such legends of the game as pitcher Satchel Paige, slugger Josh Gibson and Birmingham’s own Willie Mays, who lead the Black Barons to a league championship and a berth in the Negro Leagues World Series in 1948. According to the conference web site, the purpose of the event—which is hosted by the Negro Baseball Leagues Committee of the non-proit Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)—is to encourage the study of African American baseball and its inluence on society, sports and racial barriers.
Each year, the conference donates books to schools or libraries to encourage reading and research about the legacy of the Negro Leagues, raises funds to purchase headstones for unmarked graves of players and awards $2500 college scholarships in an essay writing competition. There is also an art contest. Various annual awards will be presented at the conference, including the Normal “Tweed” Webb Lifetime Achievement award to honor long-term contributions to the ield of Negro League research. On July 16 and 17, Martha Ackmann, author of Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League, will take part in a panel discussion about baseball and race. For more information, visit www.larrylester42.com. To learn more about SABR, visit www.sabr.org. The BCRI is located at 520 16th St. North, and the Sheraton is located at 2101 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North adjacent to the BJCC.