The Milwaukee Brewers will host African American Heritage Night, presented by Aurora Health Care, on Friday, Aug. 3, at Miller Park when the team takes on the Colorado Rockies at 7:10 p.m. The Brewers are celebrating and honoring African American heritage in baseball by paying tribute to the rich history of the Negro Leagues and its profound impact on the game as we know it today.
As part of the special pre-game ceremony, the Brewers will recognize Warren Kirkendoll and Herbert Walker who played in the Negro Leagues’ barnstorming years of the 1950s. Most of the surviving Negro Leagues players are in their 80s and 90s, making it all the more important to remember their contributions to our national pastime. The Brewers have been honoring former Negro Leagues players since 1997.
"We are humbled to be a part of a meaningful celebration dedicated to heritage, history and honoring those who prevailed in the face of adversity." said Erickajoy Daniels, senior vice president of diversity and inclusion at Aurora Health Care.
Kirkendoll, who turned 90 earlier this year, pitched in the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas League, a barnstorming circuit which was an offshoot of the Negro Southern Leagues II from 1949 to '52. Kirkendoll played for his hometown team, the Gurdon (AR) Panthers, and was known to have one of the best fastballs in the Negro Leagues.
Walker, 86, was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and began pitching as a 19-year-old with the Indianapolis Clowns from 1951 to '57. During the winter, he traveled with the Jackie Robinson barnstorming All-Star Team, playing alongside Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, who together broke the color barriers in the Major Leagues in 1947, Robinson with the National League Dodgers and Doby with the American League Indians.
Walker was also a teammate of Luke Easter, who played with the Homestead Grays in 1947-48 and spent five seasons with the Indians from 1949 to '54; Sherwood Brewer, who played from 1948 to '61 and was honored by the Brewers in 2000; and Leonard "Preacher" Williams, who after two years in in the Negro Leagues, played in the Braves farm system in 1952.
Other Negro Leagues alumni joining Kirkendoll and Walker in a special free autograph session before the game include Ray Knox, Reggie Howard, James Cobbin, James Beckham, Gilbert Black, Dennis Biddle, Henry Elmore, Al Holt, Nathan "Sonny" Weston and Don "Rook" Porter. Howard (’17), Porter (’17), Knox (’16), Beckham (’15), Black (’15), Weston, (’14), Cobbin (’07) and Biddle (’06) were honored by the Brewers in recent years.
Several special concourse exhibits showcasing the history of the Negro Leagues in Milwaukee and across the country will be on display on Friday and throughout the weekend. Additionally, the Milwaukee Urban League will be attendance, and the Milwaukee Flyers and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee will deliver special pregame performances on the Miller Park plaza.
As part of the African American Heritage celebration, the Brewers will wear vintage 1923 Milwaukee Bears uniforms. In addition, fans who purchased the special Theme Night ticket package in advance will receive a seat to the game and a Brewers snapback hat featuring the Crew's Ball & Glove logo in a special blue and gray color scheme.
Tickets to Friday’s African American Heritage Night are still available at Brewers.com or by calling (414) 902-4000.