Panel with Baseball Historians Follows February 11 Performance of “Josh: the Black Babe Ruth” at Theater for the New City
“Josh: The Black Babe Ruth,” a drama about famed Negro Leagues slugger Josh Gibson, presented by Theater for the New City February 8 to 15, will include a panel discussion with the playwright and three baseball historians following the 3pm matinee performance on February 11. Panelists Lee Lowenfish, Philip Ross, Ralph Carhart and playwright Michael A. Jones will explore the history of the Negro Leagues as it relates to modern day baseball. There will be open discussion with participation and questions from audience members.
“Josh: The Black Babe Ruth,” written by Michael A. Jones and directed by Bette Howard, dramatizes the life, loves and ultimately the tragic decline of Josh Gibson, who was perhaps the greatest slugger of the Negro Leagues and who, some say, died of a broken heart in 1947. The play, based on real events, shows Gibson struggling heroically to make it into the Big Leagues with emotional support from his good friend, the legendary pitcher Satchel Paige, and from the two women who are rivals for his heart–his common law wife and his mistress. Despite his majestic on-field performance, there are immovable obstacles, including resistance to Black players by Major League club owners and Gibson’s own personal demons, which suffocate his chances.
A B O U T T H E P A N E L I S T S
LEE LOWENFISH is a renowned baseball historian and native of New York City who came of age at a time when there were three major league baseball teams in town. He earned earned his BA from Columbia University and his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in American History from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught at Columbia University’s Sports Management program, Yale (seminar on “Jazz, Baseball, and Race Relations”), Rutgers and University of Maryland Baltimore County. He will co-teach a class in July 2017 in Baseball and American Culture at the Chautauqua Institution, the adult education mecca in western New York State. His latest book is the award-winning biography “Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman,” available in paperback from the University of Nebraska Press.
PHILIP ROSS has written about the Negro Leagues and co-authored a book titled “Negro League Baseball A to Z” with former Negro Leaguer, Pedro Sierra. He started teaching about the Negro Leagues 30 years ago, and as a result of his expertise, has been interviewed on multiple television networks. He has presented at schools, libraries and the American Museum of Natural History. He was born in the Bronx and as a child, he watched Jackie Robinson play at Ebbets Field and Willie Mays at the Polo Grounds. At age 12, he discovered the Negro Leagues when he read Satchel Paige’s autobiography, “Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever” (1962). Paige’s autobiography inspired many sports historians to interview former Negro League players and delve into news accounts of the Negro Leagues. Ross has had the opportunity to meet and interview many former players. Prior to retirement, he taught for 35 years at public and private schools. He received his bachelor’s degree from Queens College and Master’s degree from St. John’s University. He resides in Queens with his wife and is active in the community. Beside being an avid baseball fan, he also plays fast-pitch softball.
RALPH CARHART is a theater professor at Queens College and creator of The Hall Ball Project, which has been featured in the New York Times and on the CBS Evening News. The project is an attempt to photograph a single baseball with every member of the Hall of Fame, living and deceased. Currently, he has photographed 303 of the 317 members of the Hall. When the project is complete, he will donate the ball to the Hall of Fame. He is also the head of the SABR 19th Century Baseball Grave Marker Project, a committee dedicated to placing stones at the unmarked graves of baseball’s pioneers. He previously played a significant role in placing a stone at the unmarked grave of Negro League player, manager, executive and author Sol White. In 2015, Carhart discovered that Negro League legend Cristóbal Torriente was not buried in his native Cuba, as the historical record has stated for the last fifty years, but is in fact buried in New York City, at Calvary Cemetery in Queens. Carhart is also a contributor to Protoball, a web-based database dedicated to chronicling every game of baseball played before it became a fully-professional enterprise in 1871. His chapter on Rufus “Sonnyman” Jackson, co-owner of the Homestead Grays, will be appearing in the book, “Bittersweet Goodbye: The Black Barons, the Grays, and the 1948 Negro League World Series,” set to be released in July 2017.
MICHAEL A. JONES, playwright, is also author of “It Takes a Village to Raise…Hell,” produced by The Marian Holding Theatre; “Family Matters,” produced at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company and “Angela’s Justice,” a play about Angela Davis that was presented by Theater for the New City’s 2014 Dream Up Festival. His play, “The Skin I’m In,” is touring the New York City public schools. He is a founding member of the Uptown Playwrights’ Workshop. As an actor, Jones’ credits include “A Night with August Wilson’s Women,” presented by Juneteenth Legacy Theatre at Nuyorican Poets Cafe (2010 AUDELCO winner, Outstanding Ensemble) and “Fences,” presented by Morningside Players (2016 AUDELCO winner, Best Revival).
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., presents “Josh: The Black Babe Ruth” February 8 to 25. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $18 general admission, $15 seniors & students. The box office is (212) 254-1109, www.theaterforthenewcity.net.Buy tickets/get more info now