Owner reflects on Negro League’s history

Black History Month

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids played a major role in Negro League Baseball, which will celebrate it’s 100-year anniversary this year.

 The last living owner of a Negro League team lives in Grand Rapids. 

Minnie Forbes is now 87 years old. She became the owner of the Detroit Starts at age 25. 

“Isn’t that something kind of amazing,” Forbes said. 

Thanks to help of her uncle Ted Rasberry, who owned the Grand Rapids Black Sox, Forbes was in the family business. She joined a handful of women who owned one of the 20 teams in the league. 

“It was players, black players that were not allowed to play with the white players and they formed their own team which was league of their own,” Forbes said. 

Black owners and black players, but some white fans would come and watch.

“They would call them names and spit on them,” Forbes remembered. “It’s all kind of things that happened to them, and they kept playing.”

The teams traveled around in a bus for little pay. They were forced to sleep and eat on the bus because hotels and restaurants wouldn’t allow black people inside.

“That’s the way it was,” Forbes said.

Forbes says baseball was one of the few positive things for people of color to participate in. Most other sports and social events were for whites only. 

 “I think it made them feel just as important as anyone else. If you don’t have self-respect, then you just give up. So, they knew in their heart that they were just as well and good as the next person,” she said. 

By 1960, the Negro League essentially ended. But Forbes says it was more of a win than a loss because baseball segregation was over — a change that the Negro League played a big role in. 

“If you feel that that’s your gift, your calling, whatever it is, stick to that, don’t give up, don’t quit. If you know you are right, then fight for what you believe in. And you just have to keep going and you will come out in the end,” Forbes said.

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