The 100th anniversary of Negro Leagues Baseball is celebrated this year, especially by two men who mutually respect each other’s talents and passions.
The last guests on Sports Jam with Doug Doyle is New York-based musician, playwright and teacher Kevin Kane and Black Baseball author and historian Dr. Lawrence Hogan. Hogan is also Professor Emeritus of History at Union County College.
Kane, who taught for more than a decade at Wagner College and now teaches the New York school system, wrote a popular Negro League version of the legendary poem “Casey at the Bat” called Breaks the line with Mudville Nine. The YouTube version of Breaking The Line With the Mudville Nine can be seen and heard correctly here with the saxophone work of Bill Saxton.
Kane and Dr. Hogan quickly became friends after a few gatherings.
“I worked with Larry a couple of times at Union College, and he just gave me a seed, an idea, and I executed a long narrative song about Frederick Douglass that a gospel singer from New York City came in and sang and I played guitar with her. And then Larry did a show in Cooperstown about a year after he approached me and said it’s the 125th anniversary of “Casey at the Bat,” the iconic and classic American poem, and he said “It would be nice if you could do a Negro League version of it? I had done a lot of Negro League programs with him. Three weeks before I was going to do it all popped into my head. I wrote as fast as I could and this long story poem appeared as I did. is very happy with. “
Dr. Lawrence Hogan is the author of It forgot the story of African American baseball and editor and co-author of Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African American Baseball released by the National Geographic and National Baseball Hall of Fame. He also served as lead producer and historian for the documentary “Before You Can Say Jackie Robinson: Black Baseball in New Jersey and America in the Era of the Color Line.”
What’s the first thing Larry thinks of when he thinks of the 100th anniversary of the Negro League?
“Players I’ve met over the years and grown with them as they tell stories. It’s built up a spirit in me that would not otherwise be there. John Henry” Pop “Lloyd, Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, Leon Day, these three of course so much related to Newark, Pop connected to Atlantic City, so it’s a Jersey story in many ways that I tell. “
Dr. Hogan says he knew Kevin Kane would be the perfect person to come up with a Negro League version of the legendary Casey.
“You know I knew the talent from the very beginning. Out at Union County College when he did a couple of programs with me, I knew he was someone who could really get in the spirit of the Negro League, bring it to life in ways that have had never been brought to life before. “
In Kane’s version, KC in Kansas City wanted to replace the white “Mighty” Casey.
Kane has also written a play entitled “A Love of the Game” about a Negro League player and a white minor league ball player.
During this issue of SportsJam, Kane also talked about his friendship with the iconic playwright August Wilson during the days they worked together at the O’Neill Theater in Waterford, Connecticut in 1982. At the time, Wilson was just a Pittsburgh librarian submitting plays.
“We were sitting on this porch, and I was playing my guitar and harmonica, and August loved the Blues and he knew everything. He knew every guy and every recording and every song, and he really wanted to play harmonica. So I gave him a harmonica. We “He wanted to work on it. He was a smart, nice, quiet guy who got a few beers and he wanted to tell you stories. He wanted to listen to your stories. He was a good listener. And we became good friends.”
Finally, after gaining fame, Wilson asked Kane to be his representative at various events.
“August was a shy man who liked to work and did not like to go out. So when he had plays, openings all over the country, he would not go. They arranged a nice hotel room and a trip there, and he said ‘Either I shall go, otherwise I send the “performance representative,” and that was me. “
Kane is currently working on a musical.
Dr. Hogan’s latest project is a book about John Howard Johnson, a priest in Harlem and the last president of the Negro National League.
Click above to hear more stories from Dr. Lawrence Hogan and Kevin Kane.
You can catch the video version of this edition of Sports Jam with Doug Doyle here.