Negro League legends share their story with Chicago youth - Fox 2 News Headlines

Negro League legends share their story with Chicago youth

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On the anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, FOX 32 News salutes two Chicago area men who know the story behind the new movie "42" very well.

Ray "Boo Boy" Knox and Nathan "Sonny" Weston know as well as anyone what Jackie Robinson meant to baseball and the country. They played in the Negro Leagues during the sport's historic period.

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball 66 years ago on Monday. The film "42" reminds audiences of a brave and extraordinarily talented young man, and of a time when much of America wasn't ready for the country's past-time to be integrated.

Mayo Elementary on the South Side has their own mini-museum dedicated to the Negro Leagues, where guys like Jackie and thousands of others were forced to play before the doors to major league baseball opened.

Weston, 82, knows just about everyone featured in the exhibit photos. He played with Satchel Paige and met Jackie Robinson. Knox, 81, is another league veteran who remembers the day Robinson broke the changed the world of baseball like it was yesterday.

"The things he went through… he took it like a man," Knox said. "If he hadn't had the knowledge that he had, he wouldn't have made it through that."

The discrimination and outright hatred wasn't unknown to Knox and Weston. In some towns you couldn't even buy a sandwich and a diner. They both shared their experiences with their new-found fifth grade pals at Mayo elementary Miracle Neal and Darion McClure.

"Called me a name - told me get out," Weston said. "'You guys put all that food back on the table, get outta here.'"

The ugliness Weston described and the movie depictures can be difficult for an 11-year-old in the 21st century to fathom. The kids asked about the former players' emotional experiences when it came to the historic role they played in the world of baseball.

"I didn't cry," Knox said. "But you know… it hurt at times."

The overarching take-away for these kids from these baseball legends is as simple and powerful today as in 1947.

"You shouldn't judge people by their color," Weston said "Judge them by what they can do."

Weston lives in the far south suburbs these days, and Knox lives in Evanston. They are great guys – walking, talking history books. They love to talk to kids.

For more information about the life and times of Sonny, Ray and so many others like them check out NegroLeagueLegends.org.

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