The A League Apart exhibition showcases the importance of breaking barriers through the stories of the Philadelphia Negro Leagues and their ongoing legacy. It focuses on four Barrier Breakers in particular: Octavius Catto, Ed Bolden, Richard “Dick” Allen, and Mo’ne Davis.
For manager and star shortstop Octavius Catto, baseball was more than a game, it was a platform for civil rights. When he and Jacob C. White founded the city’s second black team, the Pythians in 1865, they also brought together the black community for social and political gatherings to discuss issues such as segregation/integration, equal rights and voting rights. He was a National Guard major and president of the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University).
In 1910, postal employee Ed Bolden took over a Darby sandlot team known as the Hilldale Daisies and proceeded to create one of the most successful dynasties in Negro League baseball. He led two teams, the Hilldale Daisies (1925) and Philadelphia Stars (1934) to league championships. Like Octavius Catto, Bolden saw baseball as a way to organize black society against segregation. A leader in his community and pro baseball, he spearheaded the formation of an African American corporation to support his teams, built a 5,000-person stadium, and helped establish two professional leagues.
Dick Allen was the Phillies first African American superstar but often found himself at odds with teammates, management and fans. From the small town of Wampum, PA, he endured the front lines of integration as the first black ballplayer on the Arkansas Travelers, the Phillies Triple-A team. Then he exploded into the league by winning the 1964 Rookie of the Year award and was soon dazzling fans with his mammoth home runs. But racist attitudes and personal conflict followed him throughout his Hall of Fame-level career.
The South Philly native is the latest in the line of Barrier Breakers using baseball to promote social justice and equality. Mo’ne grew up playing baseball with the Anderson Monarchs youth program. The group made an incredible run in the 2014 Little League World Series and Mo’ne became the first girl to earn a win and throw a shutout in LLWS history. Additional accomplishments include being the first Little League baseball player to appear on a Sports Illustrated cover, winning an ESPY award, and pitching in ESPN’s highest rated LLWS game. She played softball at Hampton University and is currently pursuing a career in sports media – watch for her in the broadcast booth!”