By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 25, 2021 at 10:06 AM

The Hop Milwaukee unveiled a tribute to baseball’s Negro Leagues in the form of a Milwaukee Bears-wrapped car hitting the rails on Tuesday.

Milwaukee Bears on the streetcar

The Milwaukee Bears streetcar was launched in partnership with the Milwaukee Brewers and Associated Bank to boost awareness and knowledge of the history of the Negro Leagues, and in support of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. 

The Milwaukee Bears played just one season in the Negro National League in 1923.

“The enduring legacy of the Negro Leagues is one of equity and opportunity – values that continue to resonate as we strive to build a more vibrant and just community for ourselves and for future generations,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.

“We’re thrilled to utilize The Hop as a vehicle to bring the Negro Leagues 101 platform to our city this summer, and proud to proclaim today ‘Negro Leagues Legacy Day' as we honor the brief but impactful presence of the Negro Leagues right here in Milwaukee.”

The streetcar paying tribute to the team will ride the Downtown rails for the remainder of 2021.

Milwaukee Bears-designed streetcarX

In addition to the Bears-inspired design on the car's exterior, the interior includes four panels with information on the history and legacy of the Negro Leagues.

Streetcar panelsX

The partners on this project plan to add further education events this summer to help celebrate the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum's Negro Leagues 101 educational initiative that will share digitized versions of two of the museum's exhibits around the country, including here in Milwaukee, through events, programming and virtual reality projects.

“At the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum our mission every day is to breathe new life into the incredible history of the game and to continue to introduce new fans and new generations to these amazing athletes and people whose impact on and off the field was profound,” said the museum's President Bob Kendrick.

“Through our Negro Leagues 101 initiative we’re expanding our sphere of influence beyond the museum itself, and we’re so thankful for wonderful partners like the Brewers, The Hop and Associated Bank here in Milwaukee for providing us a platform to continue sharing our story.”

The Hop's new look is reminiscent of the streetcar in Kansas City – also the home of the stellar Negro Leagues Baseball Museum – which has a car wrapped in honor of the KC Monarchs and the late Buck O’Neil.

KC StreetcarX

The Brewers have saluted the Bears in the past, wearing the team's uniforms on special nights. The team will host its 25th Negro Leagues Baseball Museum community night on Saturday, July 24 against the Chicago White Sox.

“The Milwaukee Bears are an important part of the history of baseball and culture in Milwaukee,” said Brewers President-Business Operations, Rick Schlesinger. “The Brewers are proud to honor the legacy of the Bears and the Negro Leagues as we recognize the critical role these institutions played in furthering diversity and inclusion in professional sports.”

In addition to dignitaries like Barrett, Kendrick, Schlesinger and Associated Bank's Director of Diversity D’Juan Wilcher, a slate of current and former ballplayers was on hand for Tuesday’s inauguration.

On the first ride were former Negro League players Dennis Biddle, James Beckum, MC Johnson, Warren Kirkendoll and Don Woods, along with former Brewers Larry Hisle and Gorman Thomas and current Brewers outfielder Tyrone Taylor.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.