Back to DC Sports and Entertainment Commission main page
Government and People
REMEMBER THE GRAYS
Testimony Before the Joint Public Hearing on the "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004
Remember the Grays is a community organization of sixteen hundred citizens advocating naming the new baseball team the Washington Grays, after the Negro League powerhouse Washington Homestead Grays. The Washington Grays would serve as a living memorial to the forgotten greats of the Negro Leagues and the successful fight for integration that began in Washington, D.C. Remember the Grays also calls for a stadium-based museum and a community education program to teach this history. The Grays would be the right move historically and a smart move economically for District baseball. For more information on Remember the Grays, go to the website www.rememberthegrays.org.
Testimony of Christopher Rehling. Founder. Remember The Grays
Chairman Evans, Chairman Brazil, Members of the Council, I thank you for holding this hearing today and your efforts to return baseball to the Nation's Capital.
The District has a unique opportunity with baseball's return. It is the opportunity to create benefits from a baseball team far beyond any economic benefits that have been discussed.
We have the opportunity not only to bring baseball back to the District, but also to bring District residents back to baseball by naming the new team the Washington Grays. The Grays will be a living memorial to the legacy of the Negro Leagues and a forgotten part of our history. We will teach future generations the double success story of the Grays. The Grays were the greatest baseball team, black or white, of their generation, and their success paved the way for the integration of baseball by Jackie Robinson. These successes would be seen again in a new Grays franchise that would quickly develop a national following.
To achieve the full potential of a Grays name, any new stadium plan should include a museum on site to honor the great legacy of District baseball, both the Grays and the Senators. Beyond teaching an important history lesson, a stadium-based museum will attract visitors to the stadium even when the baseball team is out of town. It will be historically and economically significant.
As for naming the team the Grays, Mayor Williams has expressed his support for this idea. Over sixteen hundred supporters of Remember the Grays advocate this idea. Three of the most prominent potential ownership groups, the DSG Baseball Group, Mark Broxmeyer and the Washington Baseball Club have stated that the Grays are either their first choice or a very serious contender. The Grays deserve a full hearing and debate. It will be a tragedy if Major League Baseball unilaterally preempts this debate by making this decision without the input of District residents. This might happen next week.
I fear that once again those with power outside of the District will make another decision for the District. The new ownership group should make the decision on a team name with input from District baseball fans. Commissioner Selig should not make it unilaterally. Major League Baseball has already tipped their hand with a new website ( dcbaseball.com) which ignores the Grays history in D.C., and fails to include a single picture of an African-American player for either the Grays or the Senators. The Mayor and the Council must take a strong line with Major League Baseball on this point.
I ask the Council and the Mayor for three things. First, please give strong public support for a Grays team name. Second, apart from your preference in a team name, I ask that you send a letter to Commissioner Selig demanding a voice for District residents in the naming process. Third, regardless of the naming decision, I ask you to support a museum in any new stadium plan to help honor this important part of District and American history.
Testimony of Brandon Russell, Member. Remember The Grays Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs: Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field.
The ratings for the baseball playoffs, the national following, and the massive appeal these teams have don't lie. All three tap into the unique place baseball has in our national history and consciousness.
We are sitting on a goldmine here in Washington DC. If in fact the stadium will be financed by some portion of tax revenue, which the council, mayor, and citizens will work out, the team that plays in that stadium must represent the unique History of Washington DC. To that end, only one name is appropriate: The Washington Grays.
The Grays might have been the greatest team in cleats during the 1930s and '40s, though most Americans knew nothing about them. Barred from the major leagues because of their skin color, the Grays were embraced by two loyal fan bases, the original group in the Pittsburgh area and an even more rabid contingent in Washington.
Milan Simonich of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette writes:
"At their peak, the Grays were used to subsidize the all-white Senators. Starting in 1939 and continuing through World War II, the Grays played at Griffith Stadium when the Senators were away. Thanks to the rent payments from the Grays, Senators owner Clark Griffith was able to turn a profit for his losing team ... as the Grays regularly filled 32,000 seat Griffith Stadium, while the Senators could not sell out, even when the World Champion New York Yankees came to town."
For too long, the achievements and day-to-day lives of African Americans who lived under segregation have been relegated to the month of February. I think of this, not as a 'Black' History issue, but as an American History issue. It is not something we should look back on negatively, with mixed feelings of shame, anger and resentment. Instead, we should respect the lives, and contributions to our society that were made by the Americans who lived back then. The baseball team gives us a unique opportunity to respect and pay tribute to this local history of triumph and success by our Grays, but also generate a national buzz and appeal along the lines of the Chicago Cubs, Boston, Red Sox, and New York Yankees.
fBack to top of page
Send mail with questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)