June 18, 2003

JUNE 18, 2003

Statue honoring Negro League players unveiled in Philadelphia
06/18/2003 3:51 PM ET
Negro Leagues memorial statue unveiled

Mayor John F. Street, All-Star shortstop Jimmy Rollins and five living members of the Philadelphia Stars unveiled a Negro Leagues Memorial Statue this afternoon at Veterans Stadium.
The statue was created as an everlasting tribute to the players of the Philadelphia Stars, who played in various Negro Leagues from 1933 through 1952. The five former Stars players who participated in the ceremony included Bill Cash, Mahlon Duckett, Stanley Glenn, Harold Gould and Wilmer Harris.

The Phillies will display the statue for the next 30 days at Veterans Stadium before it will be placed in its permanent location at the southwest corner of Belmont and Parkside Avenues in Fairmount Park. That site is the former playing field of the Philadelphia Stars.

Many organizations and individuals joined the Business Association of West Parkside in producing the everlasting tribute. In addition to hosting today's unveiling, the Phillies have agreed to handle the maintenance and upkeep of the statue for a period of 10 years ($30,000 commitment). The Phillies hosted a press conference on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January to officially announce the plans for the statue.

African-American artist and Philadelphian Phil Sumpter sculpted the statue. Sumpter also created the Judy Johnson statue at Wilmington's Frawley Stadium and the Roberto Clemente statue at Third and Erie.

Rollins is the Honorary Chairperson for the committee behind the statue.

The Negro Leagues memorial began as a project of the Business Association of West Parkside, the neighborhood that includes Belmont and Parkside, but has drawn in other organizations including the Phillies and city, state and national government.

The ceremony drew a passel of dignitaries, but the day clearly belonged to the old ballplayers.

Rollins said it was "a great honor" just to listen to their stories.

He said he especially liked the one about James ``Cool Papa'' Bell being able to hit the switch and be in bed before the light went out. The Phillies' shortstop, a pretty quick guy, said he has tried this himself and hasn't even come close.

If any of the Stars were bitter about having to play in a segregated league, it didn't show.

"Times were tough," said Glenn, who joined the Stars at age 17 right out of John Bartram High School, and now lives in Yeadon, Delaware County.

The only thing that made him angry was hearing white baseball executives say that black ballplayers could have played in the major leagues.

But on Wednesday was for celebration, not anger.

"It's nice to be remembered," said Wilmer Harris, "to have someone build a statue for the things that we did."