Wilmington Blue Rocks Annual Judy Johnson Night Helps Keep His and Negro League Baseball's Legacy Alive
On Saturday August 28, the Wilmington Blue Rocks held their 25th annual Judy Johnson Night. The night allowed those in attendance to honor and learn more about both the Hall of Fame third baseman the field is named after and Negro League Baseball.
With the work of the Judy Johnson Memorial Foundation and their Executive Director Andrea McCoy-Carty, the event had booths all around the concourse that had Negro League Baseball memorabilia and a pregame ceremony that honored three former Negro League players.
The three players honored by the Wilmington City Council, Pedro Sierra, Sam Allen, and Leon Day, who's widow, Geraldine Day was there to represent him, were ones who made a name for themselves through Negro League baseball during the mid-1900s.
Since Negro League Baseball is such a big part of their lives, events like these are important to them, to make sure the legacy of this league is kept.
"We have to do as much as we can because there's not that many of us alive. In 2000, the Negro League Museum had a reunion, the legacy reunion, there was 145. Right now there is maybe scrapping 20," Sierra said. "So it is very important that this upcoming generation knows its importance."
All three of Sierra, Allen, and Mrs. Day have been coming to the Blue Rocks celebration of Judy Johnson for many years now, to help not only keep the legacy of the Negro League alive, but the Johnson's legacy alive as well.
"It is a great event," Allen said. "And to honor Judy Johnson, one of the greats, matter of fact, a Hall of Famer."
Along with the former Negro League players, there were also Board Members from the Judy Johnson Memorial Foundation at the game who have extensive knowledge of the league and Johnson's career and life.
Jim Knotts was a close friend of Johnson's after his playing career, so an event like this is very important for him, especially since many people might not know about one of the most successful ball players from the state of Delaware.
"It is an honor to be anywhere that is honoring Judy. Our goal is to keep his name alive as best we can," Knotts said. "Delaware knew very little about Judy Johnson and naturally he is the only one who is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in fact he is in several."
What Knotts hopes people know about Johnson goes beyond his skills on the baseball field though.
"Most of all, he was a perfect gentleman," Knotts said. "I learned a lot from him, just how to be a gentleman. He was well loved by those who knew him, highly respected."
Ray Banks, another Board Member and the founder of the Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball in Maryland, echoed the Knotts sediment.
"Judy Johnson, as far as I'm concerned, was one of the best third baseman to play the game," Banks said. "He was a wonderful gentleman and a great role model for any of the youth, no matter what color you are, he was a good role model for all of us."
The importance of this event that has been held by the Blue Rocks for 25 years and all events that celebrates both Judy Johnson and Negro League Baseball can not be understated, as Pedro Sierra explains.
"It is a great honor to honor a great player," Sierra said. "I would say I rode the shoulders of Judy Johnson and all of those who came before me. And I am very proud to be apart of that legacy and one thing I think, in my opinion, people need to know that Negro League Baseball is one of the most important chapters in the history of baseball."
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