Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

The other Negro Leaguers

The trip the SJI Class of 2018 made to the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City was both enlightening and inspiring for me. All my life I’ve joked about being “ethnically ambiguous,” feeling that my identity fell somewhat in the middle of the color line. My mom, from Argentina, is light-skinned, while my Dad, from the Dominican Republic, is darker skinned. Growing up in Los Angeles, I was often labeled Mexican, or half-black, and it seemed too complicated to explain that my parents came from Latin American countries that weren’t Mexico. As soon as I came to New York, being Dominican was an expectation, not a surprise.

So I felt a bond with the Negro Leaguers, who, according to the museum’s exhibits, felt as if they were treated entirely differently in the Caribbean than in the U.S. Yes — I would be the first to acknowledge that segregation is nowhere near my own experience, but feeling like “the other” in a school and field full of white people, I appreciated the exhibit’s presentation.

In “Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line,” which I read in a sports history class at Columbia, baseball historian Adrian Burgos calls the Latino experience in baseball unique because of the incredible breadth of diversity within those who identify as Latino. For lighter-skinned Latino players, there were spots available in the Major Leagues, while darker-skinned Latino players often found themselves in the Negro Leagues. The exhibit does not allude too much to this Burgos argument, but I found myself thinking of that narrative as I made my way through the exhibits.
–Christopher Lopez