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Thu, 06.05.2008

Major League Baseball Signs Remaining Negro League Players to Contracts

Emilio Navarro (now a Yankee)

*On this date in 2008, every Major League Baseball team symbolically drafted a surviving member of the Negro Leagues.

This triumph towards America’s long march to racial justice took place at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Florida.  Before baseball's 2008 annual draft began, 30 Black players were chosen to represent the hundreds of Black and Latino players who were excluded from the major leagues in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s because of white racism.

The Black honorees said the event was one of the greatest moments of their lives, a day they thought would never come.  As he waited to be drafted, one former Black player said it felt like being born again. Then it was his turn. From the podium came the announcement: "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim select the shortstop from the Kansas City Monarchs, the 'California Comet,' Neale 'Bobo' Henderson!"

Other players signed included John "Mule" Miles, whose 11 home runs in 11 games for the Chicago American Giants would be a record to this day had he hit them in the major leagues; Miles is now a Seattle Mariner. Emilio "Millito" Navarro, who was born in Puerto Rico and played shortstop for the Cuban Stars, joined the New York Yankees at age 102 (see image), and Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, who was a teammate of a teenage Hank Aaron on the Indianapolis Clowns. Johnson, the first woman to pitch and win on a men's pro baseball team, is now on the Washington Nationals.

The ceremonial draft was the idea of Hall of Fame player Dave Winfield, (then) vice president of the San Diego Padres.  Commissioner Bud Selig and executive vice president of baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon also embraced the landmark recognition.

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