Baseball is America’s pastime, and as long as there has been a game, African Americans have been playing it, despite challenges to equal rights and opportunities. That’s the story behind tomorrow night’s program presented by the Louisville Free Public Library  and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory . The free program, titled “Louisville Slugger and the African American Baseball Experience,” starts at 7 p.m. at the Main Library (301 York Street). This is the first in a series of programs held in conjunction with the nationally touring “Pride and Passion: African American Baseball Experience” exhibit at the Main Library.
P.J. Shelley, tour and programming director at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, will present a history of African Americans in baseball, including a special look at the relationship of Jackie Robinson and Louisville’s Pee Wee Reese. According to Shelley, tomorrow night’s presentation will be broken into three different sections.
First, there will be an overall history of African Americans in baseball from the 19th century until Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers. In this journey, there are several connections to Louisville. Next, he’ll speak about Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese and how their paths crossed. Finally, Shelley will discuss Hillerich & Bradsby and how the company that makes Louisville Slugger bats was customizing bats for Negro League players since the early 1930s, including players in then-segregated Louisville. Along with his talk, Shelley will show off some artifacts on loan from the museum.
“The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory has loaned some artifacts to the Louisville library for the run of the exhibit,” he said. “Artifacts include Pee Wee Reese’s spikes, a Jackie Robinson replica bat, and a bat record card from Negro League star Mule Suttles.”
All of the artifacts are part of Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory’s permanent exhibit on display honoring the Negro Leagues. The “Pride and Passion: African American Baseball Experience” traveling exhibit at the Main Library is on display until August 3, 2012.
Photo courtesy of the Louisville Free Public Library.