Exhibit highlighting 1908 Louisville African American baseball team on display at Slugger Museum
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – Baseball’s beginnings go back centuries, and when the national pastime is this old, there are bound to be some historical gems that get misplaced.
But a small piece lost from Louisville has been found.
"To find something in our own backyard that's this important is very special," Bailey Mazik, a curatorial specialist at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, told WAVE 3 News.
Mazik spends her workdays walking the Slugger Museum’s halls and finding ways to fill its massive walls. Her most recent work was an 18-month process of uncovering and displaying a 110-year-old piece of Louisville baseball's black history.
She found two pictures at an online auction a year and a half ago. The seller claimed the men in the pictures played for the Louisville White Sox, a Negro League baseball team from the 1930s.
“And so, we said, 'Yeah let's go ahead and acquire these,'" Mazik said.
A few dollars later, they were in her possession. Then she started digging and found out who the men really were.
“On the back of one of the images there was very faint writing in pencil that had a February 1909 date,” Mazik said. “I was able to determine that they were the Louisville Unions 1908 semi-professional baseball team.”
She kept researching and found the Louisville Unions were an all-black baseball team, traveling the south 12 years before the Negro Leagues were born. Old newspaper clippings describe their games and help paint the picture of the team they were. Through her research, Mazik discovered the Unions home field sat on 28th Street and Broadway, right behind the old Sunny Brook Distillery.
That news was shocking for Armond Wilson and Derwine O’Neal, two West Louisville natives who visited the museum on Tuesday.
"Me knowing today what 28th and Broadway looks like and growing up in the downtown West Louisville, and coming here and seeing that today, that's an eye-opener,” O’Neal said. “That's somebody's grandparents from downtown like, literally. That's somebody's grandparents and they probably don't even know about it."
Mazik said she hopes the exhibit can bridge that gap between the past and present.
"Baseball is a really unique and rich lens to look at all of American history, and how it really brings so many communities together,” she said.
Museum officials told WAVE 3 News the exhibit will be on display until September.
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