Baltimore Orioles: MLK Day and MLB

Along with the rest of the nation, the Baltimore Orioles celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day today. It’s a federal holiday – for those lucky enough to have it off. And we should never treat this as just a three-day weekend. Dr. King dedicated his entire life to achieving civil rights for African-Americans, and in reality all Americans.

And at the end of the day, that fight cost him his life. However all Americans owe him a debt of gratitude, because America could never truly be America until all of her citizenry were seen as equal under the law. In this fight for civil rights, baseball of course plays a special role. Before Dr. King, Rosa Parks, et al, there was Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in 1947. That started the ball rolling.

However well before that, baseball had the old old Negro Leagues. And Baltimore had a franchise which played from 1916-1933 – the Baltimore Black Sox. The Black Sox won the 1929 Negro League Championship, and the Orioles have honored their tradition twice (2007 and 2014) by wearing their uniforms as throwbacks.

The team disbanded after 1933, however they had quite a run during their tenure in Baltimore. Down the road Washington D.C. also had a Negro League team, referred to as the (Washington) Homestead Grays. This team was in essence shared between D.C. and Pittsburgh, which I find somewhat odd. But nevertheless, the tradition of the Negro Leagues in the mid-Atlantic region is very strong.

On this MLK Day, we should honor the tradition of ALL African-Americans who made both our league and our country great. And that includes the likes of Adam Jones, who’s helped to rejuvenate baseball in the inner city through his work with the Boys and Girls Club of Baltimore. But none of that would be possible if not for the work done by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who we as a nation honor today.

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