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Minnesota premiere of "Legends of the Road" highlights baseball's history

Posted by Sarah , 15 October 2017 · 1,237 views

Minnesota premiere of "Legends of the Road" highlights baseball's history “Sure, we knew about racism – met it every day. But we loved playing ball and that field wasn’t black or white, just beautiful green grass. It treated everybody the same.” Negro Leaguer Joe Scott

As one of the official reviewers for the Twin Cities Film Fest, I am provided with advance screeners for many of the movies selected to be shown at the annual October event. One of the best parts about it is discovering films that I may not otherwise see. Such is the case for “Legends of the Road,” a new documentary making its Minnesota premiere on October 23 and highlighting the story of students from Chief Sealth High School in Seattle and their classroom project: to uncover forgotten stories of baseball barnstorming from the early 20th century and then plan and execute a summer long re-creation of this era with a 5,100 mile, 71 day trip done on bicycle while playing 33 games along the way.

If this sounds like an extraordinary film that any baseball fan would enjoy, it is. For two years, these public high school students made more than 15,000 phone calls and conducted nearly 500 phone interviews with black barnstormers, their opponents, Ex-Negro League players, baseball historians and others to shed light on a part of, not just baseball history, but American history. According to the film, the students compiled more information on black baseball player movements in the western United States and Canada than both the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum had at the time…combined.

Minnesota is mentioned twice in the film – when Buck O’Neil comes to visit one of the female students asks him if there were any women playing. Without hesitating, O’Neil mentions St. Paul’s Toni Stone, adding “Toni Stone could play.” Also, during the biking trip it lists game #25 as being played in Mankato. The logistics and documenting of the second part of the project, in which participants covered twelve states and provinces, was also the work of these ambitious high schoolers. Opponents faced included semi-professional clubs and American Legion teams and the trip was funded with business sponsorships. After losing their first game 14-0 and making six errors, they finished the trip with a winning record.

“People wanted to see a different brand of baseball – we invented the double steal and the drag bunt,” Negro Leaguer Hank “Pistol” Mason says in the film. In addition to the interesting anecdotes gleaned from the interviews during the movie, baseball fans are sure to enjoy the closing shot of the credits in which the ballplayers emerge from the corn at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.

“Legends of the Road” will be making its Minnesota premiere at the Twin Cities Film Fest on Monday, October 23 at 3:30 pm at the Showplace Icon Theatre in St. Louis Park. Filmmaker Gary Thomsen and Negro Leagues Museum President Bob Kendrick are scheduled to be in attendance. There will also be a book signing and pre-show Q&A prior to the show beginning at 2 pm including Minnesota authors Frank White (“They Played for the Love of the Game”) and Conrad Kerber and Terry Kerber (“Mayor Taylor: The Inspiring Story of a Black Cyclist and the Men Who Helped Him Achieve Worldwide Fame. To purchase tickets, visit their website.