A Fresh Look at Baseball’s Negro Leagues

An interactive exhibit at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center sheds a more comprehensive light on the sport's history.

negro leagues
Visitors use a tablet to colorize a black-and-white photo. Courtesy of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center

The story of modern baseball is incomplete without acknowledging the sport’s racist beginnings. With the help of technology, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center sheds light on this aspect of the sport in a fresh, interactive way.

Discover Greatness: An Illustrated History of Negro Leagues Baseball” is on loan to the museum in Little Falls through June from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. The exhibit, which features 90 photos, plus memorabilia, spans the history of the Negro Leagues, from the formation of the first league 100 years ago to the end of the leagues in the 1950s, following baseball’s integration. 

Visitors learn not only of Jackie Robinson’s impact when joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, but also his beginnings in the Negro American League. Also featured are Paterson-raised Hall of Famer Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League (just months after Robinson integrated the National League), and fellow Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, who grew up in Orange.

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Visual technology augments the exhibit. Visitors can use a tablet to colorize several of the photos, breathing new life into the black-and-white pictures. 

“We’ve had a lot of young kids in here who look at old black-and-white photos, and they just glaze over it,” says Eve Schaenen, executive director of the Berra Museum. “We were trying to think of ways to activate it for them.”

The museum, says Schaenen, seeks to tell stories in ways that allow visitors to broaden their understanding of baseball. “It’s our job,” she says, “to always sort of push that envelope and say, ‘Let’s encourage people to see this from different viewpoints.’”

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