White Sox pay tribute to Black ball players with mural at Bronzeville Metra Station
By J. Coyden Palmer From the Chicago Crusader
Congressman Bobby Rush and officials from the Chicago White Sox and Metra recently dedicated a new 40-foot mural at the Lovanna S. “Lou” Jones/35th St. Station that commemorates and pays tribute to the impact of African Americans on baseball on Chicago’s South Side. The 10-foot-by-40-foot, five-panel mural was commissioned by the Chicago White Sox at the special request of Congressman Rush. It was painted by Chicago artist Billy Jackson with the support of local students. The Illinois Institute of Technology donated work space. The artwork was placed under the Metra viaduct on the north side of 35th Street, which is a block away from U.S. Cellular Field where the White Sox play.
“The story of baseball is the story of our nation,” Congress-man Rush said. “The players in the segregated Negro Leagues along with those who broke the color barrier are portrayed in this mural. They are all heroes whose life stories remind us of the power of sports and baseball in particular to bring us together. I am proud of this magnificent piece of public art.”
Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf grew up as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and was in the stands when Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier by becoming the first Black to play in the major leagues. That day had a profound effect on Reinsdorf, who has been arguably the most progressive baseball owner when it comes to giving opportunities to African Americans in key positions. Reinsdorf hired the White Sox first Black manager when he hired Jerry Manuel, in addition to current General Manager Kenny Williams.
“Honoring tradition and celebrating our heritage are important values for the White Sox,” said White Sox Executive Vice President Howard Pizer. “Examples of that heritage surround us at the ballpark each and every day. This mural beautifully illustrates the history and the vital role African Americans, the Negro Leagues and pioneers like Jackie Robinson and our very own Minnie Minoso have played in creating the game we all know and love-baseball.”
For the artist Jackson, 26, he was blown away by the outpouring of support he got for the work. He praised the dozens of young people for their dedication to the project that took two years to complete. Jackson became emotional when talking about the commitment involved in the project. “I got a call for a mural submission so I submitted a proposal not knowing what it was for or who was going to be on it,” Jackson explained. “Once I found out who it was, I was like ‘yes a Negro League mural!’ I would like to thank the Chicago White Sox for the opportunity for me to get an understanding of the Negro League players and their [White Sox] African American players. We can never forget where we came from and we will never forget where we are going as well.”
Metra Acting Chairman Larry Huggins said the positioning of the artwork will be educational for hundreds of thousands every year. A South Side resident himself and a key figure in the annual Chicago Football Classic that features two Historically Black Colleges, Huggins is hoping the mural will inspire African American youth to pickup the sport. “Thousands of Metra riders use this station every year, and hopefully as they walk past this mural they will learn a little something about the African-American baseball players who are such an important part of the area’s rich baseball history” Huggins said.
Among those featured in the mural along with Minoso, are iconic White Sox players Dick Allen, Frank Thomas, Harold Baines and Jermaine Dye along with Negro League founder Rube Foster and players Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. The mural features an historical South Side timeline, covering the Negro Leagues, the integration of baseball, legendary African American White Sox players, the 2005 World Series Champion White Sox and the future of African Americans in the game.