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Former Negro League baseball team owner welcomes MLB stat decision

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Major League Baseball is now recognizing stats in the record books of some Negro League teams.

Researchers have been working on the project for many years and added stats from seven teams this week.

Ted Rasberry Field in Grand Rapids is named after an icon in the Negro League. His niece, Minnie Forbes, said MLB baseball is taking a big step forward by starting to incorporate stats from the league. It’s something the former team owner never thought she would live to see.

An undated photo of Minnie Forbes (right) and her uncle Ted Rasberry (left). (Courtesy Minnie Forbes)
An undated photo of Minnie Forbes (right) and her uncle Ted Rasberry (left). (Courtesy Minnie Forbes)

Major leaguers praise inclusion of Negro Leagues statistics into major league records

“I’m happy for them making that decision, which probably should have been made years ago. However, I feel sad because the players back then don’t have an opportunity, you know, to enjoy,” Forbes said.

Her uncle Ted Rasberry owned the Grand Rapids Black Sox baseball team and later went on to own the Detroit Stars before it was transferred to Minnie, who owned it from 1956 to 1958 because the league the teams were in would not allow the same person to own two teams.

“After 1947, the league started falling apart because of Jackie Robinson went into the majors and they were losing teams so he already owned the Kansas City Monarchs,” Forbes said.

Forbes was Rasberry’s secretary at the time, helping with things like player contracts and bookkeeping.

She said the players were forced to endure segregation and discrimination, especially when they traveled to play in the south. 

“They couldn’t sleep in hotels. They slept in their buses so they went through a lot. It was very challenging but they still continued to play because they loved baseball,” Forbes said.   

Sullivan Field, also called Valley Field, in Grand Rapids hosted some very well-known players.

Fans gather at Sullivan Field to honor Jackie Robinson Day

Chris Andrus is the co-owner of the Mitten Brewing Company and a supporter of efforts to preserve the field.

Drone photo of Sullivan Field, also called Valley Field in Grand Rapids.
Drone photo of Sullivan Field, also called Valley Field in Grand Rapids.
Ted Rasberry Field in Grand Rapids.
Ted Rasberry Field in Grand Rapids.

“It certainly has a rich legacy of famous people coming through. Its Negro League history is significant as well,” Andrus said. “When I was doing research for The Mitten, I was reading about the history of baseball in the area and I came across stories of Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, all these Negro League icons. It’s just very cool that they passed through here.”

MLB baseball says it took years of research to verify the stats and could add additional stats in the future.

The memories of meeting some big-name Negro League players are something Forbes will always cherish.

“I had an opportunity to meet Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige,” Forbes said.

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