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CyberSports
by David King
Link-Up Digital
January 15, 2003


In an age when “official” sports Web sites often have that Clorox feel to them—utterly sanitized—it’s good to know there are folks out there somewhere keeping up the battle.

Your Field Correspondent also believes a healthy dose of passion on a topic is as healthy as, well, a healthy dose of passion.

So, in grand combination, we present the Negro Leagues roundup.

Baseball’s Negro Leagues have been kaput for more than 40 years, and that kaput-ness came after a decade of near-kaput-ness, so it’s unlikely there’s much in the way of “official” Web sites out there. And heaven knows, the people who are putting out Negro Leagues pages are passionate about the subject.
 

Coming Out of the Shadows
One of the most informative of the lot is called outoftheshadows.net [www.outoftheshadows.net], which is the product of a joint research project called the Negro Leagues Researchers and Authors Group. It’s backed by some big-name organizations—oh you know, the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Society for American Baseball Research, Notre Dame University, the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University, etc. (Despite those credentials, the site is thoroughly independent and informative.)

One of its handiest features for the three of you out there who don’t have cable modem or DSL (at least that’s what Microsoft thinks, if you’re using Win XP) is the simple, quick-loading pages. That doesn’t mean that outoftheshadows.net is ugly by any means, but you don’t have to sit through somebody’s final project in Flash 301 to get into it.

In clever transition, one of the coolest features of the site is a list of master’s theses and doctoral dissertations written on the subject of Negro Leagues baseball. OK, we know, most of these folks aren’t exactly Tom Clancy when it comes to plots laden with explosions, intrigue, and guys who look like Harrison Ford, but they are providing insights into little-known bits and pieces of the culture, available at a college near you.
Outoftheshadows.net also has a nice summary of the history of the Negro Leagues as well as a—yes, dare we say it—subjective list of the top 40 players in the history of the game. There’s a well-done story on the election of Negro Leaguers to the Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as notes about some of those who aren’t in the hall but should be.

Included in this group is the senior statesman of the Negro Leagues, Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, who recently turned 100. Author and budding movie producer Kyle NcNary has put together a page that focuses on Radcliffe, who was given his nickname by sportswriter Damon Runyon after he caught one game of a doubleheader and pitched another.
 

Making the Pitch—For Radcliffe
Pitchblackbaseball.com [www.pitchblackbaseball.com] features McNary’s book about Radcliffe (just $10 plus shipping) as well as information about a Negro Leagues-related movie that the South Dakotan is trying to get produced. It has a message board where it looks like folks actually get answers to their questions, without a fee or jumping through e-mail hoops.

Beyond that is a series of profiles called the "Negro Leaguer of the Month." Mr. McNary has gone to great lengths to avoid some of the obvious choices (Josh Gibson for one) and instead focus on some of the better—but lesser-known—stories of players like Toni Stone, one of the women to play in the Negro Leagues, and Alec Radcliffe, Ted’s brother, and a star in his own right.

The star of pitchblackbaseball.com, though, is an eye-grabbing, multi-part story about the Bismarck, North Dakota, integrated team—including Satchel Paige—that won a national title during the 1930s. It’s complete with warts and photos.
 

Diamond in the Rough
But for tales, tall and otherwise, about the Negro Leagues, the site to see is thediamondangle.com/marasco, which is the handiwork of David Marasco, a former doctoral student in physics (and now a doctor of physics, which we assume is a license to bend the laws of same).

Marasco is part of an offbeat and readable Web site dedicated to all kinds of baseball lore. And though he has all kinds of tales on his site, Marasco’s best stuff is on the Negro Leagues. (Even his story of endless hours in front of microfilm of African-American papers is interesting, especially to an old microfilm-eater like your Field Correspondent.)

He’s got little-known tidbits like John McGraw’s efforts to break the color barrier just after the turn of the 20th century, and one of the speedy Paige’s encounters with a speed trap. Not fancy, by any stretch, but fascinating. We recommend this busy and interesting message board (and coming from a guy who has been blasted on a few, that’s high praise).
 

Other Hits Not to Miss
Noted Negro Leagues historian James Riley has a site called blackbaseball.com [www.blackbaseball.com], which is noteworthy for its commentary on Negro Leaguers in the Baseball Hall of Fame—and its commentary on players who ought to be there (Biz Mackey fans, take heart).

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which opened to much fanfare and has perhaps the world’s greatest spokesman—the lovable and loquacious Buck O’Neil—as its front man and chairman of the board, has an outline of its offerings at nlbm.com [www.nlbm.com].

A site called negroleaguebaseball.com [negroleaguebaseball.com] has an overall look at the history of Negro Leagues baseball, with stories and some biographies as well as team histories.

There’s even a small site dedicated to the umpires, including a great old photo of a couple of battered-looking arbiters, at home.earthlink.com/~johnmur.

Virtually all the sites seem to have links to each other, and of course the site that is the clearinghouse of all that is hardball—baseball-links.com—has a collection of pages that can be accessed using the internal search.


E-mail David King at dking1@satx.rr.com.

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