Exhibit brings insight into Negro Leagues’ history

Various Negro League players are shown on the field at Sam Gunn Stadium. Negro Leagues would play their exhibition games in Sam Guinn Stadium at Langston High School, which was built in 1935. Photo is courtesy of Jean Lacefield. - Submitted photo
Various Negro League players are shown on the field at Sam Gunn Stadium. Negro Leagues would play their exhibition games in Sam Guinn Stadium at Langston High School, which was built in 1935. Photo is courtesy of Jean Lacefield. - Submitted photo


Baseball history in Hot Springs runs as deep as its namesake thermal springs.

Much like its American and National League counterparts, the Negro League would also frequent Hot Springs for spring training.

Langston High School was the site of its exhibition games.

"The Negro League came here for spring training," says Jean Lacefield, the development officer for Gateway Community Association. "They came during the same time Babe Ruth and all the other players were coming for spring training. Since the color barrier had not been broken, baseball was still segregated at that time. They played on the field at Sam Guinn Stadium."

Sam Guinn Stadium was built in 1935 and named after a Langston High School player who passed away after a football-related injury. The stadium was mainly used for football, however, the Hot Springs Negro Civic League also played there.

Art Pennington attended Langston and made his professional baseball debut in the Negro Leagues in 1941 for the Chicago American Giants and was a two-time Negro League All-Star (1942, 1950).

"Pennington was one," Lacefield said. "There were five Negro League players from Langston. There are some interesting stories -- Roy Campanella (Dodgers Hall of Famer) -- he was a major player and he came in town and he would come and go to the Langston games. At one Langston game, he saw a player who was a great athlete. He went back to see them play and the player was not there. He asked, 'Why isn't he here?' The coach told him he had to go to work. Campanella found him a mentor to help provide for his books and expenses for school. That player was Bobby Mitchell, who played for the Washington Redskins."

Gabbie Milliner, James Pennington (Art's brother), Snook Wesson and Lou Dials are all Negro League players from Langston's rich baseball history.

"There are stories here about players coming out of this town that we have not told," Lacefield said. "We at least need to inform people."

The Hot Springs Arlingtons began playing in Hot Springs in the late 1890s to 1904, and played regional opponents in the Negro Leagues. The Arlingtons included future Hall of Famers Rube Foster and David Wyatt.

"Most of the Negro League's players, if they were from Arkansas, they went to Langston high school. Langston was the segregated high school. Prior to 1965, schools were segregated and baseball was almost exclusively segregated. Most of the minority players came out of the Negro League to play for National and American Leagues," she said.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, in collaboration with Mid America Science Museum, is bringing its traveling exhibit "Béisbol," Spanish for baseball, to Hot Springs.

"It is the story of the Negro League collaboration in Mexico and Central America," Lacefield said. "That is where the players went to go play ball."

The exhibit will be on display until April 11. Read the related article here.

"Bob Kendrick is the CEO of NLBM," Lacefield said. "He is going to be at the Village speaking at the Woodlands Auditorium today. He is giving them a speech on the Negro Leagues. Bob is going to be at Mid-America to kick off the exhibit opening tomorrow."

The NLBM is the world's only African American baseball museum that celebrates the history of the NLB.

Kendrick has created educational programs and created the "Hall of Game," which honors the Major League Baseball players who played in the Negro Leagues.


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