May 18-20 marked an epic weekend as the Detroit Tigers hosted the tenth annual Negro Leagues Weekend Celebration presented by Comerica Bank and media partners, Radio One Detroit and WWJ Newsradio 950. During the weekend, fans were given the opportunity to pay tribute to the Negro Leagues and the players who defined this profound era in sports history
"The Stars come out to Shine"
The sixth annual Detroit Stars Singing Competition kicked off the weekend festivities. The top 10 finalists from earlier competitions took the stage at Comerica Park in front of celebrity judges to show off their vocal abilities. This year's panel of judges included Duke Fakir, legendary Motown singer from the Hall of Fame group The Four Tops, Calvin Johnson, 2010 & 2011 Pro Bowler and Wide Receiver for the Detroit Lions, Tatiana Grant, entrepreneur and President of Infused PR & Events and Drew Rieves, Marketing Director of Island Dej Jam Music Group. The singing competition was intense as the judges evaluated all contestants on vocal ability, showmanship, crowd response and song selection. Detroit native, Mistee Merritt was named the winner and received the grand prize of $1,000 and the opportunity to perform the national anthem prior to the Tigers game on July 2, 2012.
Honoring the Tradition
The weekend celebration continued as the Detroit Tigers paid homage to African Americans and their numerous contributions to the game of baseball during the annual "Passing of the Bat" ceremony. The bat acts as a symbol of the history of African American contributions in baseball as it passes through the hands of past present and future generations of African American ball players. This year's onfield ceremony celebrated former Negro Leagues player, Jake Sanders, former Tigers Great Willie Horton, Fox Sports Detroit broadcasters and Detroit Tigers alumni Rod Allen and Craig Monroe, current Detroit Tigers Centerfielder Austin Jackson and Noah Clark from Padres Baseball Organization, representing the future.
On Saturday, May 20, eleven former Negro Leagues players and former owner, Mrs. Minnie Forbes, participated in a roundtable discussion and Q & A session on the Comerica Park concourse. The session focused on the history of the Negro Leagues and individual stories of perseverance. The Negro Leagues honorees then headed to the field for a ceremony commemorating the achievements and the history of the Negro Leagues. This moving on-field ceremony was hosted by John Mason of WCHB AM. Following the ceremony the Tigers took the field in the uniforms of the Detroit Stars while the Pirates donned the uniforms of the Pittsburgh Crawford's as part of the 18th annual Negro Leagues Tribute game.
Continuing a Rich Legacy
On Sunday May 20, the annual Negro Leagues Weekend Celebration culminated with the presentation of the African American Legacy Award and a salute to all African American Ball players who have worn the Olde English D.
The African American Legacy Award, which was first presented in 2009 to former Tiger and 1968 World Series Champion, Gates Brown, was designed to honor current or former African American Detroit Tigers players for their contributions to the Detroit Tigers and their influence upon players of all races who follow in their footsteps. To commemorate his contributions as a leader, pioneer and role model, the 2012 award was presented posthumously to former Tigers Pitcher and 1968 World Series Champion, Earl Wilson.
The award and special gifts were presented to the Wilson family by former Tigers great and team mate, Willie Horton along with current Tigers pitcher, Doug Fister. A Testimonial Resolution was presented by Council President Pro Tempore Gary Brown.
For the third consecutive year the Detroit Tigers welcomed 60 individuals to Comerica Park for an unforgettable pre-game ceremony. The selected individuals were sworn in as American citizens by Judge Denise Page Hood through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for the United States Department of Justice. The new citizens and their family members complimentary tickets courtesy of the Detroit Tigers to enjoy America's Favorite Pastime after officially becoming a citizen of the United States.