How do you measure progress? It starts with knowing history.
If you’re a baseball fan, you know about the Negro Leagues. These leagues gave Black players Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson and even Hank Aaron the ability to exercise their talents and passion back when it wasn’t acceptable to play with their white counterparts.
But you might not know about the most notable all-Black team that played in Cincinnati: The Cincinnati Tigers, who hit the field in the early '30s.
“The Tigers used the Reds home ballpark, Crosley Field, when the club was on the road," said Chris Eckes, chief curator at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. "It was not unusual for the Tigers to actually draw bigger crowds than the Reds did at the time.”
The Tigers wore old Reds uniforms and fed a community that could not see players of color on the field at Reds games.
“This was a team that had a number of very talented players," Eckes said. "They were competitive in the league that they played in. In 1937, they played in the Negro American League.”
However, due to lack of funding, the Tigers existence came to an end after that season.
“The Tigers' history was brief, but it was impactful,” Eckes said.
In August 2017, the Reds wore Tigers uniforms during a game. In the summer of 2020, the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum featured an exhibit paying tribute to the Negro Leagues, and in August, the Reds celebrated the leagues’ 100th anniversary.
In December of 2020, 75 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Major League Baseball added the Negro League stats to its official records.
“For a lot of historians, that debate was settled a long time ago," Eckes said. "There was really no question that these were elite players, elite teams, and the reason cited for why they weren't 'Major League' were really things that were beyond their control.”