| Monmouth College
MONMOUTH — Fresh on the heels of “major” news in the world of Negro Leagues baseball, Monmouth College will welcome a 1991 alumnus to present its next Tartan Talk on Tuesday night.
Via Zoom, Ray Doswell, vice president of curatorial services for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, will deliver a talk titled “Black Baseball & Black History” at 6 p.m. His speech is free, but attendees need to register at monmouthcollege.edu/alumni/events.
Before 1947, Blacks played professional baseball in the 20th century on their own separate teams, collectively known as the Negro Leagues. Against the backdrop of segregation, these teams traveled the country to communities large and small, bringing the thrills of America’s favorite pastime to thousands of fans and paving the way for civil rights.
Late last year, Major League Baseball announced it has elevated the seven Negro Leagues to major-league status, meaning it will recognize the statistics and records of those leagues’ players. MLB officials said they were “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history.”
Doswell will discuss that development, as well as share stories from the heyday of the Negro Leagues and speak of the leagues’ significance.
“My talk will focus on the history of African Americans in baseball from the late 1800s to the 1960s,” said Doswell. “We emphasize what was called the professional Negro Leagues, which ran from 1920 to 1960. It is a story that’s deeply rooted in the American past, not just baseball, but understanding African American history as it connects to the great migration story of African Americans.”
Some elements of that history continue to repeat.
“What we will see are parallels to what happened 100 years ago and many issues that, unfortunately, we are still dealing with as far as race and reconciliation,” said Doswell. “But at the same time, we’ll learn about great athletes and folks who persevered over some really difficult odds to create a very enterprising and successful business. That business ultimately helped pave the way for integration, not just in sport but society.”
Some of the great athletes Doswell will discuss include pitcher Satchel Paige, slugger Josh Gibson and speedster Cool Papa Bell, a trio of stars who likely appear on most experts’ “Mount Rushmore” of Negro Leagues players and who were among the first five players from the Negro Leagues to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the 1970s.
Of Bell, Doswell said: “The St. Louis Stars had a young pitcher turned outfielder who, while he was a pitcher, was able to strike out some of the top early players, and they said he was ‘cool in the clutch.’ He earned the name ‘Cool Papa.’ He’s considered one of the fastest men in baseball, but his nickname has nothing to do with his speed. It had everything to do with his ability to stay calm when he was a young player.”
Doswell came to Monmouth from East St. Louis, and majored in history while also studying education. He taught high school briefly in the St. Louis area before attending graduate school at the University of California-Riverside, where he earned a master’s degree in history with emphasis on historic resources management. In 2008, Doswell earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Kansas State University with the goal of helping the museum to develop educational websites and programs.
Doswell had joined the staff of the museum 13 years earlier, serving as its first curator. Since his arrival in 1995, the museum has grown into an important national attraction, welcoming close to 60,000 visitors annually. Doswell travels extensively as a public speaker on topics of baseball and African American history.
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