Stay with the hand you’ve been dealt, because you’ve got 21. The 21st edition of the Ben’s Biz Beat Newsletter, that is. I am Ben, and in addition to crafting clunky metaphorical introductions, I’m on the cusp of my final road trip of the season. The details of that, and much more, are included therein. But first, this:
Last week’s newsletter took a look at Minor League throwback identities, in which teams honor a previous era of franchise history. Today we’ll look at a different sort of throwback, those involving the Negro Leagues.
Negro League promotions have long been a staple in Minor League ballparks around the country, but this year’s The Nine initiative (named for Jackie Robinson’s number in his lone Minor League season) has resulted in more than ever before. Here’s a look at several ballpark tributes which have recently taken place, or will be taking place soon.
Bowie Baysox -- Mitchellville Tigers, Aug. 27
The Baysox have long staged Negro League nights featuring historical displays and appearances from former players (I attended one in 2018). The Orioles’ Double-A affiliate suited up as the Mitchellville Tigers for this year’s iteration, paying homage to a local sandlot team that operated from 1946 into the early 1970s. These jerseys were auctioned off online, with proceeds benefiting the Josh Gibson Foundation.
Mississippi Braves – Atlanta Black Crackers, September 17
The M-Braves’ homage to the Atlanta Black Crackers has decidedly not been as simple as the ABC acronym on the team’s uniforms. It was originally scheduled for the 2020 season that eventually wasn’t, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues. It was then put on hold amid the uncertainty of 2021, and this year it has been rained out twice (on August 20 and then again on September 3). The Black Crackers, who shared a ballpark with the Southern Association’s Atlanta Crackers, played throughout the 1920s and 30s. The M-Braves long-delayed homage -- now re-re-re-rescheduled for September 17 is in partnership with Jackson State University, a historically Black institution.
Frisco RoughRiders -- Dallas Black Giants (multiple dates)
This past Wednesday, the RoughRiders suited up as the Dallas Black Giants for the third and final time this season. Ernie Banks was once a member of this celebrated squad, which the RoughRiders describe as having “played host to an entertaining, loud, fast-paced style of baseball synonymous with Negro League legends of the time.” This past February, Frisco team president Victor Rojas appeared on the MiLB.com “Show Before the Show” podcast to talk about how the Black Giants identity was brought back to life. LISTEN HERE.
Wilmington Blue Rocks -- Judy Johnson Appreciation Night (Sept. 10)
The first Delawarean elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame was William Julius “Judy” Johnson, a third baseman who was a core part of the powerhouse Hilldale Club teams of the 1920s. Johnson, nicknamed Judy because his Hilldale teammates thought his style of play resembled Negro League outfielder Judy Gans, was born in Maryland but moved to Wilmington at the age of five. A statue of Johnson stands prominently outside the Blue Rocks’ home of Frawley Stadium, and each season the Nationals affiliate stages a night in his honor. This year’s iteration takes place on Saturday and features a commemorative baseball giveaway. For much more information on this Wilmington legend, visit the Blue Rocks’ “Legacy of Judy Johnson” page.
ONE MORE TIME: VISITING ERIE, BUFFALO, ROCHESTER
If I could choose one word to describe my sixth and final road trip of the 2022 season, it would be “imminent.” I’ll soon be en route to Pennsylvania’s third-largest and most northwesterly city, the first stop on what I have dubbed my “Wolves and Wings” trip.
September 10: Erie SeaWolves
September 11: Buffalo Bisons
September 13: Rochester Red Wings
This is my first-ever post-Labor Day road trip, simply because in the past the Minor League season ended on Labor Day. Drop me a line if you’ll be attending any of these games, or simply have anything to recommend regarding the region in general. email@example.com
HOPELESSLY OBSCURE MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TRIVIA QUESTION
When the 21st century began, there were five Minor League teams based in Canada. Only one of them, the Vancouver Canadians, remain. Can you name the other four now-defunct Canadian teams?
LISTEN UP: MIKE CAPPS JOINS THE SHOW BEFORE THE SHOW PODCAST
This is Josh Jackson, calmly but quite insistently asking for the attention of all of you out there in newsletter land. I host The Show Before the Show podcast’s Ghosts of the Minors segment, in which I challenge you to identify a real historical Minor League team hiding among two phonies.
In last week’s episode, we marched to the beat of the Drumright Drummers. This week, I ask you which of these clubs was up to something fishy in the Minors of yesteryear:
A. The Crisfield Crabbers
B. The Pacifica Prawners
C. The Bayville Oyster Boys
For the answer, tune in next time, won’t you?
QUESTIONS OF MINOR CONCERN
Last week’s question: What’s the coldest Minor League game you’ve ever attended?
I will add the usual caveat that I received many great responses and wish I could include them all. But in the interest of relative brevity, I now provide this single, stellar anecdote:
About eight years ago, my wife and I traveled to Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine on an April Saturday afternoon to see a Sea Dogs game. It was sunny, but the temperature was barely above freezing. No problem for us. We live in ski country, so we were well prepared, wearing multiple layers.
We arrived at the ballpark about 20 minutes before game time, bought a couple beers (it’s never too cold for beer) and took our seats by third base. We immediately noticed something odd. One of the umpires, the Portland manager and the head groundskeeper were walking around the outfield poking the ground with sticks. After a few minutes of this, they left the field, and shortly thereafter, the public address announcer came on to tell us (and the handful of other idiots in the stands) that the game was cancelled because “the field is frozen.”
We still had most of our beers left, so we just sat there sipping away and watching nothing happen until an usher came down the aisle and chased us out. – Al Diamon
This week’s question: Who is the most memorable player you ever saw in the Minor Leagues, who never made it to the Majors?
Send your responses, or any other questions or observations, to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hillsboro Hops have concluded their home season, which means that fans will have to wait until next year for the most important meal of the day.
HOPELESSLY OBSCURE MINOR LEAGUE TRIVIA ANSWER!
When the 21st century began, the Vancouver Canadians were one of five Canadian Minor League teams. They were joined by this now-defunct foursome, with each team’s league and final season in parentheses:
Calgary Cannons (Pacific Coast League, 2002)
Medicine Hat Blue Jays (Pioneer League, 2002)
Edmonton Trappers (Pacific Coast League, 2004)
Ottawa Lynx (International League, 2007)