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Meet the Cleveland man keeping alive the history of ‘Black baseball’

Published: Feb. 25, 2022 at 1:58 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Cleveland man’s passion for baseball has turned into a way to inform and educate thousands of people about the history behind ‘Black baseball’.

Justice B. Hill is a baseball fanatic, writer and podcaster.

He had no idea about the full story of baseball until he ended up stumbling upon the game’s rich history at work one day.

“I was a reporter for the Cleveland Indians at the time. It had to be the summer of 2001. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum had a traveling exhibit and it was outside then Jacob’s Field,” Hill said.

“I got to talking to them about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and he said ‘When you come to Kansas City, you have to come to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.’”

Hill took a trip to the museum and was overwhelmed with what he didn’t know about his beloved game.

“I was just awestruck,” he said. “A lot of the issues that were affecting America, segregation and all those bigotry and things like that, intercepted with baseball.”

He’s taken that knowledge and used it to educate others.

“We can’t understand today, baseball today and where we are, if we don’t have a greater sense of the past. You wouldn’t have the salaries you have today without Curt Flood,” said Hill.

Flood changed the game forever when he didn’t accept a trade in 1969, ushering in the era of free agency.

“A Black man to sacrifice his baseball career because he didn’t want to be treated like chattel,” said Hill. “People thought that again once Jackie broke the color barrier, that things were great for Larry Doby, but they weren’t great for Larry Doby. He had the same issues as Jackie Robinson. But you had to learn that.”

Hill is now the voice behind a weekly podcast for the Baseball Heritage Museum, which is connected to the well-known League Park in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood.

“It’s not just baseball that keeps you tied to the history. It’s what baseball means to the history of America. That’s what my interest is in, in talking about ‘Black baseball’, and making sure people don’t forget,” said Hill.

Hill is now pitching what he’s learned to college campuses, chronicling this history.

He is working on making the history of ‘Black baseball’ into a college class so future generations can understand how the game they love all came about.

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