By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BRING THE GRAYS BACK TO WASHINGTON
NEW HAVEN , CT.—-”
NEW HAVEN , CT.—-”The potential of a new Major League Baseball team in the nation’s capital gives Washington a unique opportunity to honor the legacy of these heroes and demonstrate proper respect for the quality of Negro League Baseball. It is time to bring the Washington Grays back to Washington !” — Christopher R. Rehling, President of “Remember The Grays”.
Like many sports fans in the D.C. area, Chris Rehling would like to see a Major League Baseball franchise back in the Nation’s Capital. It’s been over three decades (1972) since the Washington Senators left the area to relocate in Arlington , Texas .
That team was an American League expansion franchise that originated in 1961. A year earlier, the original Washington Senators left D.C. and became the Minnesota Twins.
While the original Senators were synonymous with losing (i.e. “First In War, First In Peace, and Last in the American League”), the team they shared a stadium with was one of the most successful franchises in the Negro League history.
Founded in 1912, the Homestead Grays traditionally outdrew their white counterparts and from 1937 to 1945 won three Negro League titles, including nine straight Negro National League pennants.
Among some of the standouts for the Grays were future Hall of Famers Josh Gibson, “Cool” Papa Bell, Judy Johnson, Buck Leonard and Cuban great Martin Dihigo.
A LASTING LEGACY
Rehling and his supporters have put together a brochere and website ( www.rememberthegrays.org) that would like to see the possible new team in D.C. be named after the Grays. The group feels that it would honor the legacy of Negro League Baseball and its players while also teaching Americans about the struggle for integration in baseball and Washington .
“We’re really trying to make two arguments”, said Rehling. “One, that it’s clearly just the right thing to do by remembering the history that was made here.”
“Secondly, the marketing argument as it deals with the rise in popularity of retro jerseys. There’s already a market out there for Negro League memorabilia and other retro items. Combine that with the media coverage of the naming of a team, it would prove to be a boon to this area and its sports fans.”
MORE THAN JUST BASEBALL
Along with the website, Rehling and his followers are also looking for the Washington Baseball Club and Major League Baseball to help support these following actions:
– Bringing a Major League Baseball franchise to Washington , D.C. under the name of the Washington Grays, as a living memorial to the Negro Leagues and baseball’s integration history.
— Building a museum at the Washington Grays’ stadium that honors the Negro Leagues and its players, and addresses the historical impact of segregation on baseball and on Washington , D.C.
– Creating a community-education program that teaches the history of segregation and the battle for integration in Washington and in baseball, and provides the tools for constructive discourse on civil rights issues.
Rehling adds that while things are still in the early stages, he’s confident that along with more media coverage and just word of mouth from D.C. sports fans, the movement will have some influence on the decision makers.
“If you comeback by embracing and giving respect to the history of the Negro Leagues, you could also bring back baseball fans who were alienated by the strike in 1994,” said Rehling.