White Sox ACE players learn about Chicago’s Negro Leagues, south side history


CHICAGO – While each tour he gives is unique to that part of the city and its history, there is one thing that is consistent with this Chicago historian.

That’s the theme – and Shermann Dilla Thomas preaches it as much as he can.

“I want them to leave knowing that everything dope about America comes from Chicago,” said Thomas before taking a group of young baseball players on a tour of a part of the city on December 10.

Hopping on the bus this day were athletes for the White Sox Amateur City Elite (ACE) baseball program, who were going to get a 90-minute tour of a few parts of the south side. Established in 2007 by the MLB club, it gives opportunities to 12-to-17 years olds from underserved communities in Chicago for baseball instruction, leadership, and mentorship.

This was done in big part to show these players some of the historical sites from the Negro Leagues, which had deep roots in Chicago. From the Chicago American Giants to the contributions of Andrew “Rube” Foster to the East-West All-Star games at Comiskey Park, a lot of history was made by African-American baseball players on the south side when Major League Baseball was segregated.

Thomas’ tour featured that but also other spots of significance, like the Mabel Banks Boarding House on East 44th Street and the South Wabash YMCA. These were places players stayed when they were not able to stay at hotels in other parts of Chicago.

There was also a stop at the Chicago Defender building, a newspaper that made coverage of the Negro Leagues a priority, helping to spread the word about the exploits of the ballplayers.

Along with tours concerning baseball, there were other stops on the tour that dealt with areas of cultural significance for African-Americans in Chicago. That included the South Side Community Arts Center on South Michigan Avenue, the former site of the Regal Theatre in Bronzeville, along with a few other places that are of significance to the community today.

As the tour rolled on, Thomas would interject tidbits concerning a number of topics from things invented in the city to even the significance of building design.

Larry Hawley has more on the White Sox ACE player’s tour with Thomas in the video above.

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