Former presidents unite to pay tribute to 100th anniversary of Negro Leagues

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama are taking part in the "Tipping Your Cap" campaign in honor of the Negro Leagues.
/ Source: TODAY

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama are among those who are tipping their caps in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues.

The three presidents have joined a host of luminaries taking part in the "Tipping Your Cap" campaign to pay tribute to the Negro Leagues, which existed from 1920 until the early 1960s and produced 35 Hall of Famers, including Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.

Clinton honored players like Paige, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron before tipping his Chicago Cubs hat to honor Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues before his MLB career.

“This cap is for Hillary, too, when finally, the Cubs won the championship (in 2016). Long before that, the Negro Leagues made baseball better and America better," Clinton said.

Bush tipped a cap of the team he once partly owned, the Texas Rangers, and paid tribute to Mays, his favorite player as a kid.

"It turned out Willie Mays played in the Negro Leagues for a brief period of time," Bush said. "I can just imagine what baseball would've been like had the predecessors to Willie Mays been able to play Major League Baseball."

Obama tipped the cap of his beloved Chicago White Sox as he paid his respects to the Negro Leagues.

"Today I’m tipping my hat to all the giants in the Negro Leagues, from Satchel Paige to Toni Stone and so many others," he wrote on Twitter. "Their brave example, first set 100 years ago, changed America’s pastime for the better––opening it up for new generations of players and fans alike."

Carter, a Georgia native, wore his Atlanta Braves hat as he saluted the Negro Leagues.

“I’ve been a baseball fan all of my life, and the Negro Leagues are an important part of the sport’s history. ... I tip my cap to the pioneers who showed the world that black players belong in America’s game," Carter said on Twitter.

The leagues first began in 1920 because racism and Jim Crow laws prevented Black players from playing Major League Baseball. Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson's family, including his widow, Rachel Robinson, also joined in tipping their caps.

The first league was formed in Kansas City featuring a group of Midwestern teams and was followed by rival leagues being created in the South and East, according to the Negro Leagues Museum.

Major League Baseball had a day of tributes planned in every stadium for Monday, but they were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign to honor the Negro Leagues will continue until Opening Day of MLB's shortened 60-game regular season, which is scheduled to begin on July 23 with a host of new rules due to the pandemic.

Also joining in the tribute was basketball icon Michael Jordan, who famously retired from the NBA and played minor-league baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization in 1994.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and late night host Stephen Colbert also shared videos of themselves tipping their caps in tribute.

Many current and former players have also joined in tipping their caps, from Minnesota Twins outfielder Nelson Cruz to Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.