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Negro Leagues history on display at North Omaha Museum

The Great Plains Black History Museum will be bringing a special exhibit to this year's College World Series.
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 10:53 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - In the humble archives at the Great Plains Black History Museum in North Omaha, baseball fans can learn about Hall of Famers like Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, and Josh Gibson, and explore lesser known Negro League baseball history, all by guided tour.

“Effa Manley,” he points out, “the only woman in the baseball hall of fame, owner of the Newark Eagles.”

As interest in black baseball history has grown in recent years, Ewing’s archives have grown for the annual ”A League of Our Own, the Negro League Exhibit,” which runs through the month of June.

And those who recall seeing those barnstorming games as kids in Omaha say it’s important.

“Satchell Paige played a barnstorming game in Omaha,” said Ewing, executive director of the museum at 2221 North 24th Street in Omaha. “(Paige) played for the Omaha Rockets as well, one season.”

Ewing’s memory is correct. Paige played during parts one year with the barnstorming Omaha-based Rockets.

“I was at an age where I was just a kid trying to catch a foul ball, or just enjoying the game,” Preston Love Jr. said. “But not really knowing what I was observing.”

Love knows now, of course, that he was observing a significant part of American history. The Negro Leagues are now rightfully accepted by Major League Baseball as “major leagues,” their statistics and results being incorporated currently into the all-time record books.

Of course, there couldn’t be a baseball exhibit in Omaha without Hall of Famer Bob Gibson. Love grew up idolizing the older Gibson as they grew up in the Logan Fontenelle homes.

“I could say I was all-state in football and all-state in basketball,” Love said. “(But) it was a result of some seed that was planted by Bob Gibson.”

Breaking out the bats and balls of black history during the College World Series is part of the mission at the museum, tying the city and today’s game to these baseball greats.

“These (Negro League players) helped open that door and provide that opportunity,” Ewing said. “Had they not existed, there probably wouldn’t have been a Bob Gibson.”

“We must not overlook the importance of the negro leagues, because it was an outlet that needed to be there,” Love said. “It’s a story of how sometimes something that’s not good produces wonderful things.”

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