Obama, Clinton join virtual celebration for Negro Leagues
© Getty Images

Every living former U.S. president paid tribute to baseball’s pioneering Negro Leagues as the part of the “Tipping Your Cap” campaign celebrating the institution’s centennial.

Major League Baseball had originally planned a public tribute to the league for June 27, but the coronavirus pandemic forced its cancellation. Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick told The Washington Post he was at first resigned to holding the celebration a year late before having the idea for the virtual tribute.

“In our game, there’s nothing more honorable than tipping your cap,” Kendrick told the Post. “And once I realized that national day of recognition was going to fall by the wayside, I thought, ‘OK, maybe we can do it next year.’ But that didn’t really do it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“So then I thought, ‘How about a virtual tip of the cap?’ ” he added. “And let me say here and now, there is no way I could have done this myself. I could not be more proud of the response.”

In addition to former presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton and Carter, participants in the tribute included baseball legends like Hank Aaron and Derek Jeter as well as iconic athletes from other sports, including Michael Jordan and Billie Jean King, as well as celebrities from other fields including Tony Bennett and Stephen ColbertStephen Tyrone ColbertObama to sit with Stephen Colbert for interview Hugh Grant reveals he had COVID-19: 'My eyeballs felt about three sizes too big' Colbert chokes up talking about Trump briefing: 'I didn't expect this to break my heart' MORE.

“Today I’m tipping my hat to all the giants in the Negro Leagues, from Satchel Paige to Toni Stone and so many others,” Obama tweeted. “Their brave example, first set 100 years ago, changed America’s pastime for the better––opening it up for new generations of players and fans alike.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The League, established in 1920, counted among its players greats such as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Jackie Robinson, who played with the League’s Kansas City Monarchs before he broke the color barrier by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The league dissolved in the years following Robinson’s milestone as numerous others followed him into the major leagues.

Robinson’s widow also joined the tribute, with Kendrick calling her and her family’s contribution his favorite.

“It’s Rachel tipping her cap, but there’s four generations of Robinson women in that video talking about our common cause and it evokes the kind of emotion at a time when our country really needs it,” he told the Post.