Traveling NLBM comes to Gardena

NL displayI’m not a big baseball fan, but it was the first sport I latched on to as a youth. My Dad was a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, so I naturally gravitated to the sport. Back in ’63, I recall buying a pack of bubblegum cards and in the set was a Sandy Koufax card.

What a lucky break, I thought. Koufax was a name I had heard about and that sparked many years of collecting baseball cards throughout the ‘60s.

This leads me today, as the traveling Negro Leagues Baseball Museum had its Grand Opening tour Saturday at the Nakaoka Community Center. What amazing stories, and memorabilia are on display.

I remember having a Larry Doby baseball cards as a youth, but I had no idea who he was. Doby I learned later, was the first Negro baseball player to break the color barrier in the American League. Jackie Robinson was the first Negro player, of course, with the Dodgers in the National League.

Little did I know as a youth that legends like Willie Mays and Henry Aaron got their starts in Negro League baseball.

This traveling museum captures the flavor of the old Negro Leagues and our fascinating history.  It’s hard to think now that all the major sports once segregated their athletes.  For example, if Josh Gibson has played in the Majors, he would have been King.  But we can only imagine what might have been.

Jackie Robinson was handpicked to break the color barrier, from what I heard at Saturday’s grand opening tour. Robinson had the right disposition to take the abuse he was to receive.  But he wasn’t the best player.

Among Saturday’s invited guests was Maury Wills. This guy still looks like he can run the base paths like a demon.

There are so many stories to tell and be told. One treat at the opening was the guest appearance of a former Negro Leagues player, Shepard Porter Jr.  We saw a video tribute to Shepard on YouTube prior to his introduction.

Another major league, Carl Nichols was in attendance. He played the Baltimore Orioles and the Houston Astros, from 1985 to 1991.

The Museum will be available for viewing in the auditorium of the Nakaoka Community Center from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free, so go see this amazing piece of Americana. The tour will close Feb. 13.

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