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The League Sheds Spotlight on Complicated History of Great American Pastime

One of my fondest memories growing up in Missouri was looking forward to a program run by Anheuser Busch for young baseball fans.  If a student received  ‘Straight A’s,”  the reward was a season pass to the St. Louis Cardinals season. It was a great incentive to do well in school, but for a die hard baseball fan like myself it meant everything!  I got to see Mel Gray, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Bob Gibson up close step up to the plate and do their thing.   The Negro Baseball League paved the way for  Jackie Robinson to break racial barriers signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record providing  just a few of the inspiring, enlightening and sometimes heartbreaking historical tales illustrated in The League.

Directed by acclaimed award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, this fascinating documentary recounts the dramatic rise and fall of the Negro Leagues, providing a lens on the dazzling parallel world of Black baseball created by African Americans during the Jim Crow years.

In the American popular imagination, the story of African Americans in baseball begins on April 15th, 1947, when Jackie Robinson first strode onto Ebbet’s field in a Dodger uniform. But, the reality is far more complex and intriguing than the commonly accepted narrative of Robinson’s triumphant rise. In fact, the integration of baseball, while a moral necessity, came at a cost, that led to the demise of  the Negro Leagues.  At the end of the day, our culture was asking for integration and what we got was equality – the two are not the same.

Pollard places a spotlight on African American owners like Gus Greenlee and Effa Manley whose presence in this world assist in providing a rich and layered history on the importance of economic empowerment, an unprecedented level of leadership and social advancement of our country alongside 2600 men and women who could and wanted to play ball.  Their actions changed the game of baseball forever. With tons of archival footage gathered from the players themselves or their families, it’s like being shot into a time capsule where we watch folks dressed in their Sunday best after church participate in cheerlead one of America’s greatest pastimes.

Other than the 70’s feature ‘Bingo Long and The Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings,’ ABC-TV’s ‘Soul of the Game,’ or Prime Video’s ‘A League of Their Own’ details of the Negro League have been buried alongside Black History throughout the decades. Its memories and players have been kept alive due to perseverance of  players, their families and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri…until now.

Twenty four years in the making , Bob Motley (Negro League Umpire and father of producer Byron Motley) narrates most of the film, which features interviews with the late Maya Angelou, Satchel Paige, Rachel Robinson (Jackie Robinson’s wife), and many more.  These stories are enhanced by the magnificent score from Kathryn Bostic. Stories that highlight barnstorming, challenged with sleep, hunger and racism, yet still finding the spirit to engage in something they all loved.

With Black American history being attacked and minimized in our school system and/or miscommunicated as information from ‘woke’ individuals spinning tales of glory, it is even more important that these films continue to spotlight and spread the truth.  A truth that is not a fairytale, but a glorious reality of when Black people stood up, spoke out and made differences that still resonate today. Yet, it was all done with a ball, bat, glove and passionate men and women determined to make one sport equal.  Produced by Magnolia Pictures, Radical Media, Robin Espinola, Jen Isaacson, Jon Kamen, Byron Motley and Dave Sirulnick, The League is a must see on every visceral level…for the culture.

I love, love love movies, watching them and discussing them...thus the birth of The Curvy Film Critic!!! Host/Producer/FilmCritic,Carla Renata is a member of such esteemed organizations as Critics Choice Association (Co-President Documentary Branch), African American Film Critics Association, Online Association of Female Film Critics and Alliance of Women Film Journalists. My op-eds or features have been seen in VARIETY,, Maltin on Movies, The Cherry Picks, IGN Movies, as well as being a frequent Guest Contributor to Fox 11-LA, Good Day LA, ET Live!, Turner Classic Movies, KCRW Press Play with Madeline Brand, The Cherry Picks, The Stream Team (Beond TV) ITV, Fox Soul's The Black Report, The ListTV and more. Catch my reviews on The Curvy Critic with Carla Renata - LIVE!!! Sundays 5pm PST via You Tube or Facebook Live. If you like what you read please shout me out and subscribe to The Curvy Critic on YouTube. You can chat with me across all social media platforms @TheCurvyCritic and as always, thanks for supporting a sista'

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