Mike Wedderburn on baseball documentary 'America's Sporting Shame'
Documentary tells the story of America's 'Negro Leagues' and how black baseball players overcame racism and segregation; watch on Thursday on SSN, and On Demand
By Mike Wedderburn
Last Updated: 27/12/18 9:38am
Sky Sports News' Mike Wedderburn looks back at his trip to the United States to film a new baseball documentary, 'America's Sporting Shame'.
Sitting at home one Friday morning on a day off, my phone rang. It was the executive editor of Sky Sports News. He said "Hi Mike. Do you want to go to Kansas City next week?"
That was the beginning of one of the most eye-opening and emotional episodes of my life.
As it turned out, it took a lot longer than a week to get a work visa for the United States but about a month later, the producer, camera operator and myself landed in a freezing and snow-covered Kansas City to tell the story of America's long forgotten 'Negro Leagues'.
Back in the early 1900s, the white baseball team owners had an unwritten pact to not employ black players. With nowhere to go, the black community set up its own leagues.
The standard was so high that white people would flock from miles around to see these skilled ballplayers perform.
They were good enough to watch but not good enough to stay in these people's hotels or eat in their restaurants.
We went to hear the story of how these incredible individuals overcame racism and segregation to change not only sport in America but the nation as a whole.
Along the way, we met amazing characters. Some long since dead and some very much alive who bring this shameful period of American history into sharp focus.
These ballplayers were not even a footnote in American baseball history until, tucked into the heart of the jazz district of Kansas City, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was built.
If all museums were like this, they would be full all of the time. It is designed around a baseball diamond, but like the black people of the past, you are segregated from the diamond by chicken wire.
The only way to get to it, the centre piece of the museum, you have to go around and learn the story of these long-dead ballplayers. It is eerie and extremely moving.
I'll admit more than once it brought me to tears. But in the end, it is a story of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. It'll be a great way to spend half an hour of your time.
America's Sporting Shame is on Sky Sports News at 9.30am,12.30pm, 3.30pm & 6.30pm on December 27 an available On Demand.