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Slave Museum honors 100th anniversary of Negro League Baseball –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

Sandy Spring Slave Museum “Tips its Cap” to the 100th anniversary of Negro League Baseball with its latest exhibit.

The Negro National League began July 20, 1920, and continued until 1955. By that time, the negro players were allowed to play in the Major League, so most of the better players had moved on.

The exhibit features the collection of Negro League historian Don Conway, who has spent years collecting memorabilia.

Conway, 81, says he has always been “a baseball person,” having played and coached the game.

“I have always been interested in baseball, and Jackie Robinson was my favorite player,” he said. “I started learning about the Negro League and collecting things, and then later I starting putting it all together.”

After retiring in 1996 from a teaching career in Prince George’s County, Conway began spending more time on his collection, and sharing it with schools, churches, shows, ballparks and senior centers.

He has acquired such memorabilia as newspaper clippings, photographs, autographs and items from shows, exhibits, stores and others.

The collection filled the basement of his former home, but when he recently moved to the Riderwood community in Silver Spring, much of it was relegated to a storage facility.

Conway is thrilled to bring his display to the Olney/Sandy Spring area, which has several connections to the Negro League.

“The exhibit pays tribute to the league and local players who played professional in the Negro League and recognizes those who played in the local Montgomery County teams,” said museum co-director Sandi Williams. “There were guys who played in the professional Negro League and there were local teams in just about all of the black communities of Montgomery County.”

The exhibit highlights the nine Negro League players born in Maryland, including Gordon Hopkins, born in Olney; Russell Awkard of Sandy Spring, and Clarence “Half Pint” Isreal of Rockville.

The uniform of Awkard, who played for the Newark Eagles, is on display.

Conway’s exhibit also highlights Rube Foster, “the father of the National Negro League”; the first all-black outfield of the Major League; Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, the first two players who broke the color barrier; contributions by Negro League players to the Major League, including the batting helmet and shin guards, as well as night baseball; three females who played in the Negro League; and recognitions bestowed on Negro League players who went on to play in the Major League, including postage stamps and cereal boxes.

Conway also showcases what he calls his “Blue-Dot” ballplayers — nine players who played in both the Negro League and the Major League, and who all became members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Conway beams with enthusiasm as he rattles off stories, statistics and game-reel highlights. He is passionate about keeping the legacy of the players and their accomplishments alive for younger generations.

For the past several years, Conway has attended the Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference, an event designed to encourage the study and research of Negro League baseball and the positive influence on American society by the elimination of racial barriers.

The national conference attracts scholars, historians, collectors, social activists and fans, and is held in cities known for their history in hosting Negro League teams.

Conway says the conference is a great way to pick up more information and meet players and their family members. He is disappointed that this year’s event in Birmingham was cancelled due to COVID-19, but hopes to attend the next one.


    The exhibit is on display on weekends through Sept. 27 and is available to view by appointment only. For information or to schedule an appointment, go to www.sandyspringslavemuseum.org. Sandy Spring Slave Museum is at 18524 Brooke Road.

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