March 8, 2003

March 8, 2003

Our very own NLBPA Board Member, Mr. Ernest Burke hosts Howard County (Maryland) youth baseball team at his home.


By Skip Baylor

On March 8, 2003, the 12 year old Howard County Raiders had lunch and visited with former Negro League baseball player Ernest Burke. The Raiders, who represent the Howard County Youth Programs (HCYP), compete in the Central Maryland Travel League.

The team is based in Ellicott City, Maryland and plays their home games at the Kiwanis-Wallis Park

In all, 9 players and 5 parents made the 20 minute trip to the Burke home. Upon our arrival we were greeted by Mr. Burke. The soft-spoken gentleman, standing in the doorway, was an interesting contrast to the tall, former Marine and Negro League ballplayer we were expecting to meet. As we stepped into his home it was impossible not to notice all of the baseball memorabilia that was present. For the true baseball fan, there was plenty of eye-candy.

Throughout our visit Mr. Burke spoke with the kids about his experiences in the Negro Baseball League. He discussed the many great players that he had the privilege to see play.

He also shared stories with the kids about the many hardships that black players endured in their pursuit to play the game of baseball. It would be quite easy to understand if the comments regarding his past were filled with anger and negativity.

However, the message that Mr. Burke delivers is quite different. He urged the kids to be proud of who they are and to not allow others to negatively influence their impression of themselves. Encouraging the kids to focus on positive things in life instead of dwelling on the negatives, it was quite impressive to consider how he actually practices what he preaches.

It is also easy to understand how the words of this gentle-giant could have a profound effect on his audience. Mr. Burke showed us countless letters, written by students who had heard his presentations, professing the impact his words had on their lives.

One room of his home is completely adorned with baseball pictures, artifacts, and other sports memorabilia. There are many, many, baseballs autographed by stars of both the Negro and Major Leagues. From the display of articles in the room, it is apparent that Mr. Burke has kept some pretty impressive company over the years of his life.

While the kids were impressed with the visual display of baseball memorabilia, in truth, it was the dads that were having the most fun. Mr. Burke signed cards, baseballs, and presented us all with mementos of our visit.

His wife, Sandy, was also quite nice and made everyone feel so relaxed and right at home. We ate pizza and a baseball-theme cake, provided by the Burkes, talked baseball, and had a great time. I am confident that the visit, and the wisdom shared, will be remembered by all for a very long time.

Mr. Burke is a great ambassador for humanity and the game of baseball. The Howard County Raiders thank Mr. & Mrs. Burke for the hospitality extended to our baseball family.

Below is a link to our website that has pictures from our visit.