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Monday, January 25, 2021

How One Documentary Forever Bonded The Memories Of Two Recently Deceased Negro Leaguers

When Negro Leaguers Jim Robinson and Bob Scott died just days apart in October, it was a symbolic bond that was much deeper than their time playing baseball in a segregated era. The pair spent most of their retirement in the New York City metro area, often appearing together at reunions for the past 30 years.

Robinson was a New York City native who played for the Philadelphia Stars, Indianapolis Clowns, and Kansas City Monarchs between 1952-1958, earning multiple selections to the famed East-West All-Star Game as an infielder. A Korean War veteran, Robinson worked as the head baseball coach at South Carolina State University before returning to New York where he worked for the NYC Housing Authority for 28 years.

Scott was born in Macon, Georgia, and made his Negro League debut at 16 after the New York Black Yankees signed him from the Macon Cardinals with his parents’ permission. He played four seasons as a pitcher and outfielder from 1946-1950 with the Black Yankees and Memphis Red Sox. In 1955, he signed with the New York Giants Class D team in Sandersville, Georgia. His roommate was a 17-year-old future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. Scott worked as a mason in his post-baseball career, settling into Elizabeth, New Jersey, during retirement.

With the Hudson River separating Robinson and Scott by mere miles, the duo were frequent guests at Major League and minor league ballparks, sports card shows and conferences throughout the Northeast. During the resurging Negro League interest in the early 1990s, they were considered youngsters with many of the league’s Hall of Famers and stars still living. As the light dimmed on the elder legends, Robinson and Scott became even greater celebrities while outlasting their peers.



In 2007, New Jersey based filmmaker Lauren Meyer set out to capture the memories of the quickly narrowing group of Negro League alumni for the documentary, “The Other Boys of Summer”. With both Robinson and Scott residing close to Meyer, they were obvious choices for inclusion.

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“I reached out to both men asking if they’d be willing to share their stories of what it was like to pursue their dream to play professional baseball,” Meyer said via e-mail. “The men were approximately one year apart in age but couldn’t have been more different. Both men had multi-year careers playing in the Negro Leagues and both men’s eyes lit up as they reminisced about their experiences and recounted their personal journeys; however, their paths were anything but similar.”

Scott was the first person Meyer recorded for the documentary. Taking the short drive to his home, she was greeted by a man eager to share the keys he possessed to a vibrant past.

“When I arrived at Bob Scott’s humble apartment in Elizabeth, … I was greeted by a vibrant man in a New York Black Yankees jersey and hat,” she said. “He was welcoming and proud. I set up to interview Scott at his kitchen table, which was full of baseball photos and news clippings, as well as an assortment of pill bottles.”




Robinson selected a different setting for their interview, offering Central Park as the backdrop. The fields where Robinson learned to play were just a few miles away from where he watched Negro Leagues games at both Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds.

“Jimmy just loved the game,” she said. “He would spend lots of time at the Harlem YMCA during his high school years. Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson would also spend time there working with the neighborhood kids.”

Robinson’s connected with Campanella paid off after he graduated from Commerce High School. The legendary catcher asked him if he wanted to play baseball on a college scholarship.

“He had never imagined such an opportunity,” she said. “He helped Robinson connect with North Carolina A&T, where he was offered a full scholarship and received a degree before making his Negro League debut.”

While Robinson and Scott took different paths to get to the Negro Leagues, they shared unity as survivors who endured Jim Crow segregation to become professional baseball players. Meyer aimed to put their stories at the forefront; however, it took 12 years after the initial interviews to bring “The Other Boys of Summer” to the public. Fortunately, the duo held on, both approaching 90 when the film debuted.

“When I completed the film in 2019, I made sure they each had a chance to enjoy the spotlight,” she said. “They were two of only three players interviewed for the film who were still with us. On January 31, 2019, Jim Robinson was a star on stage as ‘The Other Boys of Summer’ premiered at The Cooper Union in NYC.”

Scott had encountered health problems, forcing him to move back to Macon to be closer to his family. Meyer was determined to find a way for Scott to receive his final cheers in front of the crowd. Shortly before COVID-19 shut down travel across the country, Meyer was able to hold a screening with Scott in Georgia.

“I made a point to bring the film, and the Diversity & Inclusion Program we do with the film to Georgia, so that Bob had the chance to see it on the big screen and share his stories in person,” she said. “On February 13, 2020, [which was] the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, Bob joined us for a program for AT&T where we shared the film and reached employees nationwide with a panel discussion and Q&A. He answered questions, signed baseballs and memorabilia, and took lots of photos with people.”

While Robinson and Scott were familiar from their interactions throughout the years, they took a stranger in Meyer and treated her like an old friend. The trio stayed in close contact for the next 12 years.






“I remained in touch with each of these gentlemen for the next dozen years until their final days,” she said. “Bob would frequently call to talk, and Jim would even send personal holiday notes. … Both men spoke about wanting to make sure kids learn the history and have the chance to play.”

Meyer viewed the documentary as one final opportunity for these men to be honored on a national stage while they were still alive.

“They enjoyed a renewed opportunity to be recognized as baseball players again in their later years,” she said. “Showing up in their respective jerseys brought smiles to men, women and kids of all ages. They are incredible examples of perseverance, resilience and kindness. They would have had every right to be bitter from the discrimination they faced and lack of civil rights they endured. However, Jim Robinson and Bob Scott were two men who did not hold onto anger or hostility. They had the ability to see the positive even in challenging times. They are an important part of history.”

With both men now deceased, Meyer is tasked with using the documentary to make sure their voices both motivate and educate future generations on not only the struggles they faced, but how they chose to respond.

“I’m proud to see ‘The Other Boys of Summer’ preserving and celebrating the legacy of these unsung civil rights trailblazers,” she said. “The Negro Leaguers’ first person accounts inspire people and offer much needed hope. With the current state of social and racial injustice in America, the perseverance of these humble heroes is resonating with people of all demographics. We’re using their stories to amplify diverse voices and motivate people of all ages.”

Source: Forbes – Business

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