I never set out to be a Negro League researcher, and though as a child I had briefly heard about the league, I would not have been able to tell you anything about it. Anyway, I'm going to tell y'all how I gradually came across my current passion. I was always a baseball fan and as I begun to collect autographs I had both good and bad experiences with baseball players. When my hometown Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, I began meeting many of the players, and let's just say I quickly realized that the majority of modern players were not that friendly.
From here my interests grew for players who were more appreciative of their fans which in most cases were the players who played baseball for the love of the game, had not received much recognition and had not made much money along the way; for the most part these players played in the '40s, '50s and '60s. Throughout middle school I wrote letters to retired Major League baseball players from this era, and I continued to do so for several years. In 2007, my interests took a turn towards the Negro League when a few living players were featured in a mass produced baseball card set. I wrote to them and within a few weeks I was looking for more Negro Leaguers to contact for autographs. I quickly became submerged in the history of the league, and slowly began to communicate with players over the phone and through hand written letters. As I begun to hear these former players stories, all of which took place during a period of intense racial segregation throughout the country on and off the baseball field, I realized that these men were the most under-recognized and least paid of all players, yet the most historical. Unlike Major League baseball players at the time, players of the Negro League played under much different conditions, playing multiple games per day, encountered racial tensions in nearly every city they played in, yet still continued to play fast paced action packed baseball.
By my freshman year in high school I was speaking with players for three to four hours everyday after school. After hearing the players share their stories, including memorable and awful experiences, I wanted to help bring baseball back into their lives. I started off with small things, creating baseball cards; which they had never had during their career, and I began to locate old newspaper articles that featured their names. This quickly branched into more complex things such as providing financial aid to players by organizing autograph signings, verifying their careers in order to obtain a pension, and even finding a way for players to attend reunions where they could reunite with teammates whom they had not seen in decades.
During this time I also discovered that since the majority of the league had gone along without much documentation, many of the players had never been contacting regarding their careers. So I began communicating with living players and using decades old newspaper articles to obtain information that I could use to track down former players. I have now located upwards of 100 former players, many whom still do not like to talk about their career due to their poor experiences.
My initial quest for autographs had led me to become a Negro League Baseball researcher and eventually an advocate and humanitarian for these former players. As all of this was happening, I never really thought much of it, as it was a passion and hobby of mine. The first instance that I realized my work was important was in 2010, during my first reunion in Birmingham, Ala. Here, I was given an award for outstanding Negro League research for tracking down the documentation necessary for former pitcher Paul Jones in order for him to receive a $10,000 a year pension. It was at that moment that I realized what I was doing had a tremendous impact of numerous lives and that I needed to continue to act as an advocate for these players as long as I could.