Baseball is one of the oldest and most revered sports in America’s history, and its history has many interesting and often unknown facts.
No stranger to his home team the Toronto Blue Jays, on April 2, 2013, Geddy Lee struck the first pitch for their 2013 season opener.
(video above, more facts at bottom)
A wonderful philanthropic piece of history took place on June 5, 2008. Geddy Lee, the bassist and singer for the acclaimed Canadian rock band RUSH donated nearly 200 (and later, another 200) autographed baseballs to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.
These balls are autographed by such baseball greats as Cool Papa Bell, Hank Aaron and Lionel Hampton, Fireball Bill Beverly, Piper Davis Willie Mays, Josh Gibson and Ike Brown. At the time, Geddy Lee’s gift was one of the largest single donations the NLBM had ever received.
As Geddy says:
“A few years back, I visited the Negro League Museum in Kansas City and was so impressed with the exhibits and moved by the story, which many baseball fans like myself are surprisingly unaware of.
I happen to be a collector of baseball memorabilia and a friend of mine spotted this collection at an auction, so we hatched a plan to buy them and donate them to the museum.
I just thought that they belonged in the museum and not in private hands. The collection was divided into two lots of 200 balls each, and we were successful in purchasing one of the lots. But after my donation became public, I discovered who had purchased the second lot, and after approaching them, they were kind enough to allow me to purchase the remainder of the balls in order to donate the complete collection of over 400 balls to the museum.
I recently visited the museum again, and the balls are now beautifully displayed. I was just so impressed and so emotional about the stories this museum tells, and it just stayed with me.
I thought so many baseball fans around the country had no idea how incredible this place was.”
Geddy Lee (nee Gary Lee Weinrib) comes from a Jewish family where his parents met in, and actually survived the concentration camps of the Second World War before emigrating to Canada to start over with a newly liberated family; their two sons Gary and Alan.
As such, the Weinrib family is no stranger to bigotry and torture and would never tolerate discrimination or racism.
Many black players dominated in the USA as excellent players long before they joined (or were allowed to join) the Major League of Baseball. The Negro Leagues were created in the late 1800s; the players and teams developed formidable skill and thrilling, healthy competition.
Though it took decades before these (segregated) players were accepted into the MLB, in 1945 the Brooklyn Dodgers drafted Jackie Robinson from the Kansas City Monarchs. This paved the path for continuous drafting of African-American players into the MLB.
Sadly, this also began the erosion of most NLB teams, as the best players rose to respective Major League teams.
This transition, though positive for the sport and its players, had deleterious effects on some the former teams’ economies while the Mid and South West USA still struggled with prevalent racism.