Back in 1997, the Anderson Monarchs celebrated the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier by piling a team of 5th graders into a vintage 1947 Clipper tour bus for a 13-day road trip, aiming to recreate the “barnstorming” experience Robinson would have had as a player in the Negro League.
The Monarchs from that original tour, now grown up, and other past and present Monarchs reunited on June 10th for a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the original barnstorming tour.The day featured a game between Monarch’s current players on the 12U team. Legendary sportswriter Claire Smith, who has broken color and gender barriers herself, threw the ceremonial first pitch.
The Monarchs have gone on four barnstorming tours since 1997. “Barnstorming” is when a sports team travels to different cities for unofficial exhibition matches, and the Monarchs have certainly played a lot of baseball during their barnstorming tours. But the Monarchs’ barnstorming tours have always been about more than just baseball. The four cohorts of barnstormers have used their time off the field to experience civil rights history up close, meeting civil rights visionaries and visiting historic sites.
This equal emphasis on sports and education is central to the mission of the Anderson Monarchs, and it evident in their day-to-day programming.
The legacy of the Civil Rights movement is part of DNA of the Anderson Monarchs. The baseball team is named for two civil rights pioneers: one is Marian Anderson, the first Black singer to perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Recreation Center in South Philly that hosts the team during the regular season bears her name. The other is, of course, Jackie Robinson, who played for the Negro League team the Kansas City Monarchs before breaking the color barrier in baseball.