Welcome to the weekend POU!
The last feature in our series was an owner AND a player in the league for a short time. Though there isn’t much written about her time during the actual league’s time – she has lived to see the first black President of the United States pay tribute to the league she so cherished.
Minnie Forbes never imagined she’d get the chance to see the White House, let alone meet a U.S. President.
And yet, on Aug. 5, 2013, the 81-year-old Grand Rapids resident did just that. Because of her unique position in history — she’s the last living owner of a Negro League baseball team — Forbes joined about a dozen former baseball players invited to meet President Barack Obama, who honored them for their contributions to athletics and civil rights.
From 1956 to 1958, Forbes was the owner of the Detroit Stars, the only Michigan team in Negro League baseball. The league offered many black and Latino athletes the chance to play professional baseball in the first half of the 20th century, and disbanded in the early 1960s.
After 1958, Forbes went on to play baseball as a third basemen for the Kansas City Monarchs making her the fourth woman to play baseball in a Negro League.
Forbes said she initially purchased the Detroit Stars from her uncle, Ted Rasberry, after a conflict of interest prevented him from owning both the Stars and the Kansas City Monarchs, another team in the Negro League.
She said she sold the team after a few years and pursued another career path when it became clear the Negro Leagues were fading out of existence. For many years, her connection to the Negro League was little more than a distant memory.
Renewed interest in the league’s history a few years ago brought Forbes back into the limelight, eventually leading to her meeting with the president.
“There’s really not a word that’s big enough to describe how thankful I am,” she said. “I never would have dreamed there would be an African American president, and to be able to meet him was such an honor.”
Forbes said Obama spoke with the group and told attendees how proud he was of the Negro League and its unique position in history. Later in the meeting, Forbes said he gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I got kissed by the president,” she said with delight. “I’ve been telling everybody. This all happened because of the Negro League.”
Baseball has changed so much since she was personally involved with it, Forbes said. She recalled many instances of racism the players were forced to endure, including having to sleep on buses and go to the back of gas stations because of their race.
They endured difficult circumstances and sometimes played up to three games a day for only $300-350 a month, Forbes said, but did it for the love of the game.
“They couldn’t play in the white leagues, because white players didn’t want to be near us or have anything to do with us,” she said. “So we formed our own teams. They went through so many hardships, and yet they still played. The Negro League had some of the best baseball players ever, and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of it.”
When she was younger, Forbes played softball herself, playing third base for local teams. After she began talking about her role in the Negro Leagues, she was invited to throw the first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game in 2011.
Forbes said she’s glad the players who formed the Negro League are finally getting recognition for their part in history. In part because of people who played in the leagues, talent is now the driving factor for who gets to play major league baseball instead of race, she said.
“Now, players can play for any team as long as they have the ability and talent to play,” she said. “They can stay anywhere and eat anywhere. To me, that’s the greatest thing.”