A tribute to players who broke baseball’s boundaries

Branch man­ager of the Rich­mond Lib­rary, Jerry Frank­lin, is a big base­ball fan. He shares some of his per­son­al col­lec­tion in a new ex­hib­it that fo­cuses on play­ers who moved to the ma­jor leagues after play­ing in the Negro Na­tion­al League.

It’s fair to say that Jerry Frank­lin, branch man­ager of the Rich­mond Lib­rary, is a de­voted base­ball fan.

A base­ball-mem­or­ab­il­ia col­lect­or since his youth, Frank­lin has de­cided to share some of his col­lec­tion with vis­it­ors to the lib­rary, at 2987 Al­mond St., in a dis­play that fo­cuses on the amaz­ing ath­letes who moved from the Negro Na­tion­al League to the ma­jors.

“When I was grow­ing up, I col­lec­ted all these base­ball cards,” a smil­ing Frank­lin said as he proudly shared the dis­play he calls Break­ing Bar­ri­ers: From the Phil­adelphia Stars to Rich­ie Al­len, now on view at the lib­rary branch.

 ldquo;I played soc­cer for forty years,” he ad­ded, “but base­ball is the best game.”

The ex­hib­it is a mix of base­ball cards, pamph­lets and even a ball signed by a num­ber of not­able play­ers. The col­lec­tion in­cludes mem­or­ab­il­ia from great play­ers who played for the Phil­adelphia Stars in the old Negro Na­tion­al League — play­ers like Bill Cash, Mahlon Duck­ett, Stan­ley Glemm, Har­old Gould and Wilmer Har­ris.

Frank­lin said he wanted to cel­eb­rate Phil­adelphia’s oth­er team, the Stars, which ex­is­ted be­fore Jack­ie Robin­son broke ma­jor-league base­ball’s col­or bar­ri­er when he signed with the Brook­lyn Dodgers in 1947.

“Base­ball is a mir­ror of so­ci­ety,” said Frank­lin. “So I sought out the names of play­ers who crossed over (from one league to the oth­er).”

Frank­lin said the gems of this col­lec­tion, though, are the pieces from Rich­ie Al­len, who played for the Phil­lies dur­ing the 1960s and re­turned briefly in the mid-’70s.

Frank­lin de­scribed the tal­en­ted but re­bel­li­ous slug­ger as one of the last play­ers who “dealt with ra­cism head on.”

“He’s like, the end of all this,” said Frank­lin. “Every­one knows the story.”

In the early 1960s, Al­len, a Pennsylvania nat­ive, played for a Phil­lies minor-league team in Little Rock, Ark., and years later he’d re­call the ra­cism he en­countered on and off the field. Dur­ing his first full sea­son with the Phil­lies, in 1964, Al­len blos­somed as a star at third base and was the Na­tion­al League Rook­ie of the Year. But Al­len, even as he rose to be­come a star of the game, of­ten clashed with team man­age­ment and was traded after the ’69 sea­son.

On dis­play in his lib­rary ex­hib­it, Frank­lin said, are many of the base­ball cards he col­lec­ted as a child while fol­low­ing Al­len’s ca­reer. Some of his most prized pieces are the cards and oth­er mem­or­ab­il­ia that Al­len has signed.

“When I was grow­ing up, you didn’t save cards, you played with them,” Frank­lin said. “Now, kids are com­ing in here and they know Rich­ie Al­len. They know how good he was, and they can con­nect to it.”

Frank­lin also has plucked a se­lec­tion of books from the lib­rary’s col­lec­tion that deal with the his­tory of base­ball and spe­cific­ally the era of the Negro Na­tion­al League.

He con­siders it a way to get more kids in­ter­ested in read­ing. His ex­hib­it was moun­ted in Feb­ru­ary, in ob­serv­ance of Black His­tory Month, but Frank­lin plans to keep it go­ing for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

“It took a while to get it here, so I plan to let it last for a few months,” he said. ••

“Break­ing Bar­ri­ers: From the Phil­adelphia Stars to Rich­ie Al­len” can be viewed dur­ing reg­u­lar hours at the Rich­mond Lib­rary, 2987 Rich­mond St. For more in­form­a­tion, call the lib­rary at 215-685-9992.

Star man­aging ed­it­or Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com


You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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