Barnstorming from city to city was a way a life for Negro League ballplayers in the 1940s.
Teams such as the New York Black Yankees, Cincinnati Tigers and Indianapolis Clowns would travel by bus to play their opponents.
Steve Bandura is the program director at the Marian Anderson Rec Center in Philadelphia, and has set out to recreate the barnstorming experience, paying homage to the Negro Leagues along the way.
“My goal – when I did a similar tour 15 years ago – was to show South Philadelphia kids the country,” Bandura said. “This time around, I wanted to show the country these kids and what’s possible if you give urban kids the same opportunities as kids in the suburbs. If the playing field is level, all kids will achieve the same successes.”
On the first day of the tour, the Anderson Monarchs visited the gravesite of Jackie Robinson.
“We had each kid write a message on a baseball and we placed it on Jackie Robinson’s gravestone when we visited,” Bandura said. “We made sure we took the baseball before we left so the kids can always have that memory.”
The authentic bus the Monarchs are using pays respect to all former Negro Leaguers.
“It was just sitting in a barn in Connecticut for 25 years, no one was using it,” Bandura said. “The bus definitely gives a feel of how Jackie Robinson and the Negro League players traveled during that time. A lot of young baseball players don’t know much about this part of baseball history. I think this tour has helped teach them about this era.”
The Monrachs stopped in Cincinnati on July 14 to take on the Reds RBI team and attend the game against the Cardinals.
“It is such a great baseball town that I think the kids need to see it,” Bandura said. “It also is great that we are going during the year Barry Larkin is getting inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He is the perfect role model for these kids.”
The team took in the game between the Nationals and Mets in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night before continuing their journey.