Jackson State University is partnering with the Mississippi Braves for their family and friends’ night at 6:05 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, at Trustmark Park. The first-time collaboration will honor the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues.
“We are very excited that we are finally in a place where we can actually see this project to fruition. We’ve been working on it since 2020,” said Yolanda Owens, vice president for the Division of Institutional Advancement at JSU. “The pandemic paused our plans, but we are excited that in 2022 we can bring this partnership together.”
Although The Negro League’s 100th anniversary was in 2020, and initial plans stalled, the fun and festivities will now go down on Saturday as the Mississippi Braves take on the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
During the game, several tributes will be made in memory of the league established for Black baseball teams in the early 20th century. A silent auction will also be held, and all proceeds will go to JSU’s GAP program.
“There’s going to be a number of historic videos, script material, and a variety of things talking about the history of the Negro Leagues. We probably have more of a focus on Cool Papa Bell, who had Mississippi ties, and [we're] just celebrating the history, nostalgia, and importance of the Negro Leagues,” explained Tim Mueller, assistant general manager of the Mississippi Braves.
Mueller says the partnership between the Braves and JSU is long overdue, calling the university an icon and fixture of Mississippi and the capital city.
“Kelvin Moore, who is now deceased, was the first player from Jackson State to actually be drafted into Major League Baseball, so this is a great opportunity for us to honor him and some of our other MLB greats and honor those who paved the way for us through the major leagues,” added Owens.
Former Minority Mississippi Braves player Vaughn Grissom and Minority Mississippi Braves player Justyn-Henry Malloy are proud of the team’s efforts to recognize the Negro League, noting its contributions to their opportunity to play professional baseball.
“I wouldn’t be able to play our sport now without the people who took the first step. The league is being flooded with more African-American talent, and it’s fun to see,” said Grissom, who played infielder for the Braves at the time of this interview.
“Even like 15 to 10 years ago, the league was like predominately white, and now you get to see a lot more color. We have an opportunity to make tons of money now [and] that wasn’t available back then, even if you were the best of the best.”
Malloy, drafted by the Braves in 2021, plays left field for the franchise. He admires the passion the players of the Negro Leagues had for the game.
“Being able to know the history of what those guys have done before us and the amount of struggling they really had to go through too, it kind of put things in perspective with us playing such a difficult game,” Henry shared. “Those guys were super tough. They were hungry; they really loved the game for them to do what they had to do to play out here, so I think it’s important for us to know and recognize that.”
Keeping true to the Mississippi Braves tradition, a firework show will follow the game. Tickets can be purchased from Ticketmaster or in-person at the Department of Alumni and Constituency Relations located at 101 W. Capitol Street in downtown Jackson.
Editor’s note: Shortly after this interview, Vaughn Grissom was promoted to Atlanta on Wednesday, Aug. 10. Grissom started that evening for the Braves at second base and during his third plate appearance at historic Fenway Park, he hit a monster homerun for his first hit as a Major Leaguer.