Alabama baseball legends included in special Negro League bobblehead release

Satchel Paige grew up in a section of Mobile known as “Down the Bay,” learned to pitch while spending nearly six years in the Alabama Reform School for Juvenile Negro Law-breakers in Mount Meigs, and would go on to become the greatest pitcher in Negro League baseball history.

Paige’s prime pitching days came as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs, where he became a fan favorite who drew large crowds. In 1942, he led the Monarchs to a world championship.

His days with the Monarchs are being commemorated by the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, and the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee. This month, in honor of Black History Month, a new bobblehead of Paige is being included in a limited edition 13-player replica of the Field of Legends display that is featured within the Negro League museum.

Also included within the set is Anniston native Bob Motley, a former Negro leagues umpire. Motley, who died at age 94 in 2017, began umpiring Negro League games in 1948. He was a founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in 1990.

Bob Motley

Anniston native Bob Motley was an umpire in the Negro Leagues. He is being commemorated with his own bobblehead as part of a Field of Legends release by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo. (photo courtesy of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum)

“The Field of Legends is a remarkable feature of the (Negro League Baseball Museum) and now people can have their own full or individual replicas in bobblehead form,” said Phil Sklar, co-founder and CEO with the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum. “The Negro Leagues bobbleheads are a great way to keep the legacy of the league and its players alive and we think this is the perfect bobblehead series to accomplish its mission.

The Field of Legends puzzle set – which is a full replica of the Field of Legends – is individually numbered to only 200 and is $625 while individual bobbleheads are $35 each or $400 for the set of 13. The puzzle set features 13 bobbleheads that fit together at the bases to make up the Field of Legends display.

Individual bobbleheads feature each player on a baseball shaped with their name on a plaque on the top of the base. Sales of the bobblehead support the Negro League Baseball Museum, a privately-funded museum dedicated to preserve the history of Negro League baseball in America.

The other players within the set include:

  • Catcher Josh Gibson, considered one of the power hitters in baseball history.
  • First baseman Buck Leonard, teammate of Gibson’s with the Homestead Grays who played in a league-record 11 East-West All-Star Games.
  • Second baseman Pop Lloyd, who played for 25 years and routinely hit over .300.
  • Shortstop Judy Johnson, who was a slick fielding ball player who also exceled at third base and was also a manager and scout.
  • Third baseman Ray Dandridge, who is considered one of the best third basemen in baseball history who also served as a mentor to Willie Mays.
  • Cool Papa Bell, an outfielder who was regarded as one of the fastest players in professional baseball history.
  • Oscar Charleston, an outfielder who was considered an exceptional all-around ballplayer
  • Leon Day, an outfielder who was also an exceptional pitcher during his career.

Other statues commemorate Rube Foster, the founder of the first Negro National League; and Buck O’Neil, a former player and manager with the Kansas City Monarchs and a member of the museum board until his death in 2006.

The bobbleheads for Paige and O’Neil include them wearing their Monarchs uniform.

On November 5, O’Neil was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, by the Early Days Committee.

“The full replica bobblehead of the Field of Legends is our most complex bobblehead to date,” said Jay Caldwell, founder of NegroLeagueHistory.com. “We are fortunate it comes shortly after Buck O’Neil was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

The Field of Legends release comes about one month after the of a Hank Aaron bobblehead that releases his short playing stint in 1952 with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues.

The arrival of the Paige and Aaron bobbleheads comes during renewed attention toward Mobile’s legendary link to professional baseball history. The city is boats five Hall of Fame baseball players as native sons – Aaron, Paige, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams and Ozzie Smith. In aggregate numbers, only New York City and Los Angeles can claim more native residents enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

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