Black history memorabilia collector discusses importance of baseball’s Negro Leagues

Sports

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WDVM) – Spend five minutes on a Zoom with Don Conway, and you’ll soon learn that he is a walking and talking encyclopedia of the history of black baseball.

The 82-year-old Silver Spring resident, who is a retired teacher and sports coach, is quick to point out the impact that the Negro Leagues have had on Major League baseball.

“A contribution that the negro league made to the major league,” Conway told WDVM. “Was the night game, night baseball.”

He added that a Negro League player, “Willie Wells,” was the first to wear a helmet in the league and pointed out that “now everybody has to wear a helmet. Even the coaches now.”

February is black history month and black history in sports, plays a big role in history. Conway’s collections include four main groups – Negro League baseball memorabilia, black people on United States currency, black athletes on cereal boxes and black people on United States postal stamps.

Conway considers being on a postage stamp the highest honor in the country and says baseball legend and sports and society trailblazer Jackie Robinson, was honored on a postage stamp three times. Conway sees Robinson and his impact, as a testament to social progress in sports, making its way into society.

“I consider Jackie Robinson the first civil rights leader,” Conway said. “And I like to emphasize that to all athletes and especially baseball players who do not know how they got to the position that they are in now, [they wouldn’t be there] if it wasn’t for him.”

Conway encourage all people, not just sports fans, to read up on black history and the Negro Leagues.

“I like for them to take this and encourage other people to come out and look at and find out some history,” Conway said.

He says it’s most important for younger generations to take an interest.

“Always like to get to the younger people to learn about this,” Conway told WDVM. “So they can carry it on.”

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