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Reclaimed: The Forgotten League review

Production company – ABC News

Rating – 5 Brains

Ok folks, full disclosure here. I’m not much of a baseball fan. Like, at all. I can name a few teams, but no players who are actually alive. And yes, I could be all sneery and say “Well in this country we call it “rounders” and it’s a game played by young girls”, but I won’t. Mainly because I want to like baseball. I really do.

My main source of baseball knowledge comes from Greg Proops’ podcast (my last review) where he waxes lyrical about the so called “Negro Leagues” in the early 20th century and how they were better players than the white Major League teams. His love of players like Satchel Page and Willie Mays was contagious, and his retelling of classic games really stuck with me for some reason (including Dock Ellis playing the best game of his life while on LSD). So now I get to review a podcast about one of his favourite topics.

So what’s it about?

Like most things in American history, baseball was highly segregated. Despite it being a massively popular sport amongst black people at the turn of the 20th century, the white population was not interested in the massive talent. It wasn’t even like the prospect of making money changed things, nobody wanted black teams in the major league, or black players full stop.

One of the best players in the “negro leagues” was Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, a centre fielder with a phenomenal batting average (he now ranks 5th in MLB history).

This series of Reclaimed focuses on his life, as told by his granddaughter Vanessa Ivy Rose. She follows him from his childhood in Nashville, through the formation of the Negro Leagues, to his later years and MLB recognition (something that came far too late for a lot of those players).

Her joy and happiness as she remembers her grandfather is at odds with the stories of segregation and racism he faced. She interviews players and journalists who remembered him, and there is a real feeling that they are celebrating his life in the way he would have wanted.

Is it any good?

The Forgotten League is the latest instalment of the Reclaimed podcast series. This is a show that shines a spotlight on the history of segregation in America, and the hardships experienced by black Americans. Actually, “hardships” hardly scrapes the surface. Earlier seasons deal with horrific racism and violence. While this particular season is dealt with humour and wit, the undercurrent that these sportsmen dealt with on a daily basis leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth. Also great sense of sorrow that despite undisputable talent, these men were overlooked because of the colour of their skin.

Final thoughts

When I heard about this podcast, I didn’t realise that it covered anything other than baseball. I was familiar with the stories covered in previous series, particularly the harrowing tale of Emmett Till. It wasn’t until after I subscribed that I realised that this was the third series of the podcast.

These are stories that everyone needs to hear. The fact that it’s uncomfortable and harrowing makes it even more important. Once we forget about stories like these, then history will invariably repeat itself. Especially as global politics swings ever further right. I hope you are uncomfortable and horrified. You should be.

You can get The Forgotten League here:


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