Historical Museum to show documentary on Sioux City Ghosts
Legendary African-American softball team enshrined in Smithsonian

For immediate release June 29, 2007

 

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – Nearly 20 years before Jackie Robinson broke Major League baseball’s color barrier, the legendary Sioux City Ghosts fast-pitch softball team was breaking down walls and making a name for themselves in stadiums across the country.

A documentary detailing the history and significance of the team will be shown at 2 p.m. July 14, 2007 at the State Historical Museum in conjunction with “Shades of Greatness: Art Inspired by Negro Leagues Baseball,” a multi-media art exhibit showcasing the history of Negro leagues baseball. The State Historical Museum is at 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines’ Historic East Village. Call 515-281-5111 for more information.

Sioux City Journal Online Editor Thomas Ritchie, who helped to produce “Sioux City’s Ghosts,” will present the documentary and answer questions afterwards. Ritchie worked with freelance writer Jan Dehner and producer/videographer Chris Simons to create and produce the documentary.

The Sioux City Ghosts was a fast-pitch softball team comprised entirely of African-American men from Sioux City. The team combined its exceptional skills on the ball field with a keen sense of comedic showmanship, touring the Midwest, West Coast, and parts of Canada and Mexico from the 1930s until the mid-1950s. For their pranks and antics on the field, they were often compared to basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters.

The Ghosts made a name for themselves despite limits imposed on them by a segregated society. The team overcame prejudices, at times even refusing to play their exhibition game until local officials waived the discriminatory rules, thereby helping to break down racial barriers. The team is often credited for easing racial tensions and helping to lay the foundation for the integration of Major League baseball.

Memorabilia and artifacts from the Ghosts were placed into collections of the National Museum of American History’s Division of Cultural History, and later the Archives Center, at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. in 1996, acknowledging the team as historically and culturally significant to the country.

In 1983, Ghosts team member and Sioux City resident Frankie Williams was recognized by the Iowa Amateur Softball Association. Players Floyd Fuji Fulton and L.J. Favors have been inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame. In 1997, the Greater Siouxland Athletic Association placed the team into its Hall of Fame. Williams, the last surviving member of the Sioux City Ghosts, died a month ago in Sioux City at age 86.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is responsible for developing the state’s interest in the areas of the arts, history and other cultural matters with the advice and assistance from its two divisions: the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. DCA preserves, researches, interprets and promotes an awareness and understanding of local, state and regional history and stimulates and encourages the study and presentation of the performing and fine arts and public interest and participation in them. It implements tourism-related art and history projects as directed by the General Assembly and designs a comprehensive, statewide, long-range plan with the assistance of the Iowa Arts Council to develop the arts in Iowa. More information about DCA is available at www.culturalaffairs.org.

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