The Institute for Baseball Studies, a humanities-based research center on the campus of California’s Whittier College, has announced the receipt of a large donation of Negro Leagues memorabilia. The collection, which was donated by Michael Brown, includes 302 baseballs signed by Negro Leagues players (many of whom are now deceased), as well as signed photographs and postcards, statues and figurines, and a variety of ephemera.
The term ‘Negro Leagues’ may be used broadly to include professional black teams outside the leagues and it may be used narrowly for the seven relatively successful leagues beginning in 1920 that are sometimes termed “Negro Major Leagues.” The integration of Major League Baseball in 1947 marked the beginning of the demise of the Negro Leagues, which were defunct by the late 1950s.
The donation is a significant addition for the fledgling Institute for Baseball Studies, which had its ribbon-cutting and grand opening in January of this year. The Institute’s research collection includes books and periodicals, the papers of distinguished baseball historians and journalists, and a variety of materials that support multifaceted and interdisciplinary studies at Whittier College. Through public symposia and programs, the Institute’s goal is to prompt the exchange of ideas and the development of research initiatives related to baseball’s significance in American culture.
“The Institute for Baseball Studies at Whittier College is thrilled to receive the donation of Michael Brown’s substantial collection of Negro Leagues memorabilia,” remarked Joseph L. Price, Professor of Religious Studies at Whittier College and Co-Director of the Institute. “His generous contribution of more than 500 distinct pieces expands the Institute’s archives and establishes the Institute as a dynamic center for the study of African-Americans in baseball. Portions of the collection will be utilized by faculty in multiple departments in courses throughout the curriculum. The vivid, material character of the memorabilia promises to stimulate student interest in and research on the Negro Leagues’ distinct contributions to American history in the first half of the twentieth century.” Price added that materials in the collection are already being prepared for inclusion in the Institute’s exhibits and events in celebration of Black History Month in February 2016.
Brown, a Southern California-based businessman, is pleased that the Institute for Baseball Studies is the repository for a collection that he lovingly built over the course of many years. “It was my intention to donate the collection to a museum or school that would preserve it, and display it to children, students, and the public in general,” noted Brown. “In speaking with Ray Doswell of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, he suggested Whittier College due to its Institute for Baseball Studies and its West Coast location. He explained that even though the NLBM would love to house my collection, he thought that, between Whittier College’s dedicated educational program and its proximity to the densely-populated Southern California area, the Institute for Baseball Studies would be an ideal place to promote and teach the history of Negro Leagues baseball. Ironically, it just so happened that I had lived nearby the Whittier campus for nearly twenty years.”
Dr. Raymond Doswell, Vice President of Curatorial Services for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, who recommended the Institute for Baseball Studies as a possible location for Brown’s impressive collection, stated, “From our vantage point at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, we know there is great interest in black baseball history all across the country, especially on the West Coast. We are pleased to learn that a collection like this will be available for researchers in this region. The Institute for Baseball Studies can now help expand the reach of historical resources on Negro Leagues history and bring new voices to the topic.”