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  • I've always collected baseball cards.

  • I first started playing baseball

  • when I was eight years old,

  • and when my hometown Red Sox

  • won the World Series in 2004,

  • I began meeting many of the players

  • at autograph signings and events around Boston.

  • But I noticed a few things in common.

  • These players weren't very friendly,

  • they were all quite overpaid,

  • and they acted more like celebrities.

  • So, in middle school,

  • a friend introduced me to a new way

  • to collect autographs:

  • writing the players through the mail.

  • In doing so, I would write a letter,

  • send a self-addressed stamped envelope,

  • and send a few baseball cards.

  • Within a few weeks, I'd often get a response.

  • But it was never the modern players

  • that would send back.

  • It was the always the players from

  • the 50s and 60s

  • who were much friendlier,

  • and much less recognized

  • during their career.

  • So, I continued to write letters

  • to these retired ball players,

  • and in 2007, Topps Baseball Cards

  • came out with a set

  • where they included

  • a few Negro league baseball player cards.

  • Negro league was a period

  • from 1920 to the 1960s

  • where blacks who were segregated

  • from playing in the Major Leagues

  • played in their own baseball league,

  • often busing around the country,

  • playing two to three games a day,

  • under much less glamorous conditions.

  • But over time, due to this,

  • due to the lack of glamorization

  • and public interest,

  • everything just kind of faded away,

  • leaving the history of the Negro leagues behind.

  • So, I ended up writing to these players in this set

  • and within a few weeks they signed my cards.

  • From here, I began writing to Negro leaguers

  • who didn't have baseball cards.

  • Guys that were, you know,

  • even less recognized.

  • And in my letters, I'd often include my phone number,

  • and a few them began reaching out to me.

  • When I started speaking with them,

  • I noticed they all had a few things in common.

  • None of them had baseball cards,

  • none of them had any documentation,

  • no newspaper articles,

  • no sorts of photos from their career,

  • just nothing tying them to the game,

  • and lastly,

  • they had just left all their teammates behind.

  • They hadn't stayed in touch

  • with any of their teammates.

  • So, I tried to change this,

  • and I started off

  • by making baseball cards on my home computer.

  • Printing them out,

  • designing them and sending them to ball players.

  • And what I also did

  • is I began signing up for newspaper archive websites

  • where I'd find old newspaper articles

  • that would give these guys

  • the recognition, that you know,

  • tied them to the game.

  • And lastly, I began becoming

  • kind of like a private investigator,

  • tracking down their former teammates

  • and trying to get these guys back in touch.

  • From here, I went on

  • and I just spoke to these players.

  • It got to the point

  • where I actually had players calling me up

  • asking me for information.

  • And by the time I was a freshman in high school,

  • it was no longer a hobby at all.

  • I had gone from an autograph collector

  • to this Negro league research obsession.

  • I even asked for Negro league autographs

  • and stamps for Christmas.

  • So, going on through high school,

  • I began to take this work

  • in the Negro league much more seriously.

  • I started working with

  • adult Negro league researchers

  • where I began working on a few different programs.

  • The first being the Negro League Annual Reunion

  • in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • At the reunion,

  • we'd have about 50 to 60 Negro league ball players

  • from around the country,

  • and they'd all come together,

  • and these players would just,

  • you know, sit in the hotel lobby for me

  • from 8 a.m. until the late hours of the night

  • just catching up, telling stories,

  • and here we just had a week of events

  • and these guys got some of this

  • recognition and honor

  • that they never really had before.

  • The second program that I began working on

  • was the Negro League Pension Program.

  • And the Pension Program was a program

  • that was offered by Major League Baseball,

  • and if you played four years

  • in the Negro league,

  • and you can document it,

  • these players would be entitled

  • to $10,000 a year.

  • This meant a lot for these players.

  • Many of these guys never really did much

  • after baseball,

  • they didn't make much money.

  • So, when I was able to get these players pensions,

  • it really made a difference.

  • When I started doing this,

  • I encountered a lot of difficulty.

  • I had to go through hundreds and hundreds

  • of newspaper articles

  • trying to find this documentation

  • to prove they played, and in many cases I did.

  • Also I want to mention, when I was speaking

  • with these players on the phone,

  • tracking them down, it wasn't easy either.

  • I would go through hundreds of articles

  • trying to look for names,

  • trying to find information,

  • and I encountered quite a lot of failure.

  • I would call people up,

  • it would be the wrong person.

  • It would be really awkward.

  • I'd also have a lot of times

  • where I'd call players up,

  • and they didn't want to speak at all to me.

  • They would hang up.

  • When I said the word baseball,

  • they would just refuse to talk altogether.

  • This was because

  • they faced a lot of segregation

  • during their playing careers.

  • Along with the lack of glamorization that they faced,

  • they also dealt with a lot of racisim

  • on and off the baseball field,

  • which just lasted with them throughout

  • their whole lives.

  • These guys, you know,

  • it was very emotional for them to talk about baseball,

  • and it was really hard

  • to kind of get these guys back, you know,

  • talking about this game

  • that they had kind of left behind.

  • Lastly though,

  • I encountered, you know,

  • quite a lot of success as well.

  • Some of these guys I'd call up

  • I'd talk to them for two to three hours,

  • and these guys would just

  • go on and on about their stories,

  • you know, telling me, like, exact baseball games

  • and memories that they had.

  • Nowadays, I've attended four Negro League Reunions,

  • three of which

  • I've actually roomed with

  • former Negro league ball player

  • Russell "Crazy Legs" Patterson

  • of the Indianapolis Clowns.

  • He actually snores at night,

  • in case you all were wondering.

  • I've worked on about a dozen pensions,

  • and I've tracked down over a hundred

  • Negro league ball players,

  • constantly finding new ball players,

  • getting them in touch with their former teammates,

  • bringing baseball back into these players' lives

  • and bringing these guys back into the game.

  • (music)

  • Thank you!

I've always collected baseball cards.

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A2 US TED-Ed negro baseball league began ball

【TED-Ed】How one teenager unearthed baseball's untold history - Cam Perron

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    Kevin Tan posted on 2014/11/05
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