Mahlon Duckett says his favorite memory of playing in the Negro Leagues came as an 18-year-old in 1941, when the sure-handed infielder clubbed a game-winning home run off Hall of Famer Satchel Paige at Yankee Stadium.
“I could never forget that,” said Duckett, who played for the Philadelphia Stars and Homestead Grays from 1940 to 1950.
Duckett, former Negro Leagues teammate Stanley “Doc” Glenn, and Red Sox Hall of Famer Luis Tiant addressed more than 100 members of the Northeastern community on Wednesday, as part of a series of educational events and programs connected to the University’s ongoing art exhibit on the Negro Leagues.
The event enhanced the understanding of social issues and awareness of the contributions of Negro Leagues baseball players, said Donnie Perkins, dean and director of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, which worked to bring the exhibit to Northeastern.
The exhibition—Shades of Greatness: The Art of Negro Leagues Baseball—includes 35 paintings, photographs, etchings, three-dimensional installations and signs created by local and national artists, and is on display through July 23 at Gallery 360.
Duckett knew he was good enough to play in the big show after he hit two doubles off a major league pitcher in the 1940 All-Star Game.
“It didn’t take long to figure out how good players in the Negro Leagues were,” he said. “But we never got the recognition we deserved.”
For his part, Glenn only had one wish—to lace up his cleats and take the field. “I didn’t care who I was playing,” he said. “ I just wanted to play.”
Noting his “long, hard journey” to achieve success in the major leagues, Tiant called upon members of the audience to “treat people the way you want to be treated and find a way to live together.”
He praised 10-year-old twins Max and Lucas Kerman, of Brookline’s Driscoll School, for turning a school project on stereotypes into an in-depth exploration of the Negro Leagues.
Over the last several months, the brothers wrote to more than 100 former Negro League players, many of who returned autographs and personalized messages of support and advice on the importance of education.
“We learned what it took to break the racial barrier,” said Lucas. “It took heart—a lot of heart.”
His brother summed up the theme of the afternoon by quoting from a letter he received from a former Negro Leagues player. “Without memories of the past, there can be no dreams of greatness in the future.”