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Indians celebrate historic Negro Leagues Week

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A local week of tributes to some of the greatest but long under-appreciated baseball players of all time.

The Indianapolis Indians are marking June 20-24 as Negro Leagues Week, to celebrate the second year of Minor League Baseball’s “The Nine,” an initiative sharing the contributions of black baseball players.

Indian players are sporting Indianapolis ABCs jerseys this week. The visiting team, the Columbus Clippers, will pay tribute to the Columbus Blue Jays, another historic negro league team. The two are making history together as the first two minor league teams to wear negro league uniforms simultaneously.

The Indianapolis ABCs were a charter member of the Negro National League in 1921. One legend that emerged from their ranks was Oscar Charleston, an Indianapolis native whose talents on the field and later as a manager of the Indianapolis Clowns left an undeniable mark.

The ABCs made history by having the first three women, Tony Stone, Connie Morgan, and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, play alongside men on the same field, breaking barriers for the Negro Leagues and women in baseball.

Cheyne Reiter, the Director of Communications for the Indians, spoke with News 8 about the significance of this week.

“It’s our duty to recognize the Negro Leagues. They don’t exist anymore. The clowns and the ABCs are long in the past, but a chance to tell and share their story and educate fans and players about how baseball once was and here’s how we got to where we are today; I think it is very important,” Reiter said. “And for us to be able to own that and honor that and bring all of that to life both through these uniforms and caps and as well as what we’re going to run in the park for fans to just learn more about the ABCs clowns and the Negro Leagues in general.”

Interestingly, player names were added to jerseys in the late 1940s or early 1950s, primarily due to the unfortunate reality that fans used player names to target and heckle them.

He added, ” It’s very important for that younger generation to understand that when they step on the field, here’s the gentleman that paved the way for you to do so.”

Fans can participate in an ABCs jersey auction that benefits the Indianapolis Indians Charities and continues through the end of the seventh inning on Saturday.