Notes: Brewers honor Negro Leagues

Notes: Milwaukee honors Negro League

MILWAUKEE -- Miller Park had a slightly different look to it on Friday night.

As part of the first annual Negro Leagues Tribute Night in Milwaukee, the Brewers wore the uniforms of the Milwaukee Bears. The Bears were only in existence for one season in 1923, but they had the distinction of being the northernmost franchise in the history of the Negro League. The squad featured baseball Hall of Fame player/manager Preston "Pete" Hill.

The night was a celebration and remembrance of an era that former player Dennis Biddle estimated had only 140-150 players left.

"I think this history should be passed down so our children have the opportunity to learn about history that wasn't really written down," Biddle said. "It means that finally some Negro League ballplayers are getting recognition, thanks to the Milwaukee Brewers, who are helping keep that legacy alive."

The Brewers' opponents, the Washington Nationals, joined in on the tribute by wearing the uniforms of the Negro League's Homestead Grays, who played in Washington, D.C. from 1937-48.

"No history of baseball is complete without acknowledging the significant role of the Negro Leagues, and the Brewers tribute will honor the great men and teams from that era," said Brewers' executive vice president of business operations Rick Schlesinger. "This game is the first of what will be an annual event to ensure that the legacy of the Negro Leagues is strengthened through time."

Friday night's tribute started with a pregame ceremony on the field with a video on the Miller Park video board, highlighting memorable moments from the Negro Leagues.

Three men who made significant contributions to the Negro Leagues were then honored on the field: Biddle, who pitched for the Chicago American Giants from 1953-54 and was the founder of "Yesterday's Negro League;" Buck O'Neil, who was a player and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs from 1937-55; and James Sanders who played for New Orleans/Detroit and Kansas City from 1956-58.

O'Neil said he values educating people across the country on what the Negro Leagues were really about.

"I tell young people that the Negro Leagues were a little different than they like to picture it," O'Neil said. "It was the third-largest black business in the country."

Following the tribute, the Brewers will auction their game-worn Milwaukee Bears uniforms on, with the proceeds to benefit "Yesterday's Negro League Foundation" at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo. Biddle, O'Neil and Sanders will also be placed on the Miller Park Wall of Honor.

Injury update: Shortstop J.J. Hardy, out since May 17 with a right ankle sprain, did not accompany the team on its last road trip and has no definitive timetable set for his return yet according to manager Ned Yost.

"He's getting there," Yost said. "He's walking around better and [could return in] probably a week to 10 days, if we're lucky."

Meanwhile, Rick Helling was due to make another rehab start on Monday at extended Spring Training in Arizona.

Also, starter Jorge De La Rosa cracked a fingernail on his pitching hand in his start against Pittsburgh, but is expected to make his start on Sunday against Washington.

New partnership: The Brewers organization is striving for better health awareness in the community.

A new three-year partnership between Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Brewers was announced on Friday. It will include health information at Miller Park on game days, coaching clinics for high school and college teams and "healthy kids" initiatives at local schools.

Awards: Rickie Weeks was named the Brewers Player of the Month, determined in a vote by club officials and traveling media members. Left-hander Chris Capuano won Pitcher of the Month honors for the second straight month.

In 26 games, Weeks hit .347 with four home runs, six RBIs, 23 runs and seven stolen bases. Since moving to the leadoff hole, Weeks has a .314 batting average.

Capuano was arguably the Brewers most solid pitcher for the month. Although he only recorded one win during the month, he was solid in all but one start. The first five of his starts were quality starts, and he recorded 30 strikeouts while walking only nine.

Last call: Entering Friday night's game, Brady Clark was batting .403 in his last 23 games. ... Bill Hall was tied for sixth in the National League in extra base hits with 27. ... Prince Fielder had one hit in his last 13 at-bats. ... Carlos Lee had three hits in his last 22 at-bats.

On deck: The Brewers continue their series against the Nationals at Miller Park. Left-hander Doug Davis (3-4, 5.59) will face left-hander Mike O'Connor (2-3, 3.00 ERA). First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. CT.

John Sahly is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.