• Press Release

PORTSMOUTH MUSEUMS EXPLORES AFRICAN AMERICAN BASEBALL



Words and Images Courtesy of the Portsmouth Museums


PORTSMOUTH MUSEUMS EXPLORES AFRICAN AMERICAN BASEBALL WITH NEW EXHIBIT AT THE PORTSMOUTH COLORED COMMUNITY LIBRARY MUSEUM, “ROOTING FOR THE HOME TEAM: PORTSMOUTH’S BLACK BASEBALL PLAYERS, PROMOTERS AND PARKS”


Portsmouth Museums, African American Baseball Exhibit
Portsmouth Colored Library at 304 Elm Ave

[PORTSMOUTH, Virginia, January 27, 2022] – In the years surrounding Jackie Robinson’s well-known crossing of Major League Baseball’s “color line” in 1947, players like Joseph “Mickey” Brown, Charles Peete, Brooks Lawrence, and Buck Leonard were cementing their reputations in Portsmouth’s Black baseball scene. Neighborhood youth leagues, high school rivalries and Sunday afternoon semi-professional games brought the Black community together in their shared fandom.


Portsmouth Museums, African American Baseball Exhibit
Rooting for the Home Team exhibit panel

There were players who grew up here, passed through town with a semi-pro team, or went on to the big leagues. A few of their stories are now on display at the Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum.

“Rooting for the Home Team: Portsmouth’s Black Players, Promoters, and Parks,” is an exhibit that examines the popularity of mid-20th century baseball in Hampton Roads in the Black community, features some well-known Portsmouth players, and reminisces about the ubiquity of the game in the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s.


Portsmouth Museums, African American Baseball Exhibit
Mickey Brown on Left in Portsmouth Uniform, Courtesy Leona Earl

“Baseball was king at that time,” said Sam Allen, now 85 and living in Norfolk, who played in the Negro Leagues in the late 1950s. Hear more about players whose talents took them all the way to the top of the game and paved the way for future sluggers in this exhibit that examines the National Pastime from a local perspective. There are two exhibits in the Library Museum’s galleries. One examines the history of Library itself, and how it served as Portsmouth’s African American library from its construction in 1945 until the city’s library was integrated in 1963. The other is the new exhibit about African American baseball.


1946 Newark Eagles - Ports navtive Charles Leon Ruffin middle row left end Credit to National Parks Service

Charles Peete in 1953 - Portsmouth Public Library Image

The Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum, located at 904 Elm Ave., Portsmouth, is open Fridays and Saturdays from Noon – 4:00 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. Groups of six or more may make arrangements to visit on another day and time by calling the History Division of the Portsmouth Museums, 757-393-8591. The Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum is part of the City of Portsmouth’s Department of Museums and Tourism. More information at portsmouthva.gov/305/Museums.

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