CINCINNATI — After reopening to members only last week, the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum will open its doors to the public on Saturday.
Baseball fans will not only be treated to popular footage and relics from the Big Red Machine, they also will get the rare opportunity to view a traveling art exhibit depicting Negro Leagues baseball.
“Shades of Greatness,” an exhibit portraying the experience of Negro Leagues players, is on loan from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
Rick Walls, executive director of the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum, said the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns nearly prevented Tri-State baseball fans from seeing the exhibit.
“We’d asked them if we could keep this," he said. "It was going to go away in April. Now we have it through July."
Raymond Doswell, curator and education director at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said his museum worked to educate the participating artists on the experiences of Negro Leagues players in the hopes the artists would produce a more authentic story.
“We’re talking about the 1920s through the 1940s, World War II, travels to Latin America. All of these different themes are rolled up into black baseball history,” Doswell said.
The “Shades of Greatness” exhibit is on tour during 2020, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues.
Although African Americans played organized baseball right after the Civil War, Doswell said 1920 was the year the first major league was formed.
“With the pushing of the black press, newspaper editors, they wanted to see independent black baseball teams become more legitimate," Doswell said. "The prominent black baseball team owners of the time got together in 1920 and hammered out the framework for what would become the Negro National League."
Museum visitors also will be able to view an adjacent exhibit called “Pursuit of a Dream,” which depicts the Negro Leagues experience in Cincinnati.
The Reds Hall of Fame & Museum is following all of Ohio’s safety regulations to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“Plexiglas barriers at the front counter, and we’re doing constant cleaning and disinfecting, so this is going to be a very safe environment,” Walls said.
At least one interactive exhibit will be temporarily closed, he said.
“We’ll have a couple of exhibits that may be closed down – the broadcast area and one of the microphone spaces where you step up and try to call a play – but most everything else will be open,” Walls said.
In the meantime, Doswell hopes that those who take the time to view “Shades of Greatness” reflect on the similarities between 1920 and 2020.
“It’s important for people to be reminded of how difficult those times were and they will see that we are still unfortunately dealing with some of the same issues that these ballplayers had to go through,” Doswell said.
Reds Hall of Fame & Museum safety protocols
• Hall of Fame staff will undergo daily temperature screenings and conduct self-health assessments, as well as wear facial coverings – visitors are also encouraged to wear face coverings.
• Reserved admission times – in order to maintain social distancing, guests are encouraged to reserve a time slot for their visit.
• Special hours for seniors and high-risk individuals from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturdays.