Kirkland man building bobbleheads for Negro Leagues Baseball Museum By Vanessa Misciagna
Step into Jay Caldwell's Kirkland home and it hits you like the crack of a bat hitting the ball: this man has a passion for baseball.
"I'm bordering on hoarder status," Caldwell says.
The retiree's home is full of baseball memorabilia collected at various auctions over the past few decades.
A good portion of his collection has been focused around artifacts from a time when baseball was segregated.
"The more I learned, the more I realized they were really early civil rights pioneers."
He's talking about the Negro Leagues. Founded on February 13th, 1920, it was the only organization where African-Americans could play professionally. These segregated teams were a showcase of the players' great talents and ultimately made the case for integrating baseball.
"It began the process of, 'Hey, we all enjoy the same game, you guys are good and we didn't realize that. Maybe it's unfair that we don't allow you to play with Walter Johnson or Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth,'" said Caldwell.
Now he's working with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on their upcoming centennial celebration of the founding of the leagues in 2020. He will be lending more than 100 artifacts to the museum for an exhibit.
He's also working with the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum on a series of 32 bobbleheads of notable players from the Negro Leagues.
Pitcher Satchel Paige is the first of the series. Along with statistics, a story about the individual players' role in civil rights of the time.
"My hope is that we really educate the public on the Negro Leagues and the history of triumph over tragedy."
The 32 bobbleheads will be released over the course of the year, with the last one being released on the centennial. The sales will help fund the museum's centennial celebration.