How one teenager unearthed baseball’s untold history – Cam Perron


I’ve always collected baseball cards. I first started playing baseball
when I was eight years old, and when my hometown,
Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, I began meeting many of the players at autograph signings
and events around Boston. But I noticed a few things in common. These players weren’t very friendly,
they were all quite overpaid and they acted more like celebrities. In middle school, a friend introduced me
to a new way to collect autographs: writing the players through the mail. In doing so, I would write a letter,
send a self-addressed stamped envelope, and send a few baseball cards. Within a few weeks,
I’d often get a response. But it was never the modern players
that would send back. It was always the players
from the 50s and 60s, who were much friendlier, and much less recognized
during their career. So, I continued to write letters
to these retired ball players, and in 2007, Topps Baseball Cards
came out with a set where they included
a few Negro league baseball player cards. Negro league was a period
from 1920 to the 1960s where blacks who were segregated
from playing in the Major Leagues played in their own baseball league, often busing around the country,
playing two to three games a day, under much less glamorous conditions. But over time, due to the lack of glamorization
and public interest, everything just kind of faded away, leaving the history
of the Negro leagues behind. So, I ended up writing
to these players in this set and within a few weeks,
they signed my cards. From here, I began writing
to Negro leaguers who didn’t have baseball cards. Guys that were, you know,
even less recognized. And in my letters,
I’d often include my phone number, and a few of them
began reaching out to me. When I started speaking with them, I noticed they all had
a few things in common. None of them had baseball cards,
none of them had any documentation, no newspaper articles,
no sorts of photos from their career, just nothing tying them to the game. And lastly, they had just left
all their teammates behind. They hadn’t stayed in touch
with any of their teammates. So, I tried to change this, and I started off by making
baseball cards on my home computer. Printing them out, designing them
and sending them to ball players. And what I also did is I began
signing up for newspaper archive websites where I’d find old newspaper articles that would give these guys the recognition
that, you know, tied them to the game. And lastly, I began becoming
kind of like a private investigator, tracking down their former teammates and trying to get these guys
back in touch. From here, I went on
and I just spoke to these players. It got to the point where I actually
had players calling me up, asking me for information. And by the time
I was a freshman in high school, it was no longer a hobby at all. I had gone from an autograph collector
to this Negro league research obsession. I even asked for Negro league autographs
and stamps for Christmas. So, going on through high school, I began to take this work
in the Negro league much more seriously. I started working
with adult Negro league researchers where I began working
on a few different programs. The first being
the Negro League Annual Reunion in Birmingham, Alabama. At the reunion, we’d have
about 50 to 60 Negro league ball players from around the country, and they’d all come together, and these players would just,
you know, sit in the hotel lobby for me from 8am until the late hours of the night just catching up, telling stories, and here we just had a week of events and these guys got some
of this recognition and honor that they never really had before. The second program that I began working on
was the Negro League Pension Program. And the Pension Program was a program
that was offered by Major League Baseball, and if you played four years
in the Negro league, and you can document it, these players would be entitled
to 10,000 dollars a year. This meant a lot for these players. Many of these guys
never really did much after baseball, they didn’t make much money. So, when I was able
to get these players pensions, it really made a difference. When I started doing this,
I encountered a lot of difficulty. I had to go through hundreds and hundreds
of newspaper articles trying to find this documentation
to prove they played, and in many cases I did. Also I want to mention, when I was speaking
with these players on the phone, tracking them down, it wasn’t easy either. I would go through hundreds of articles trying to look for names,
find information, and I encountered quite a lot of failure. I would call people up,
it would be the wrong person. It would be really awkward. I’d also have a lot of times
where I’d call players up, and they didn’t want
to speak at all to me. They would hang up. When I said the word baseball,
they would just refuse to talk altogether. This was because they faced
a lot of segregation during their careers. Along with the lack
of glamorization that they faced, they also dealt with a lot of racism
on and off the baseball field, which just lasted with them
throughout their whole lives. These guys, you know, it was very emotional for them
to talk about baseball, and it was really hard
to kind of get these guys back, you know, talking about this game
that they had kind of left behind. Lastly though, I encountered, you know,
quite a lot of success as well. Some of these guys I’d call up,
I’d talk to them for two to three hours, and these guys would just
go on and on about their stories, telling me, like, exact baseball games
and memories that they had. Nowadays, I’ve attended
four Negro League Reunions, three of which I’ve actually roomed
with former Negro league ball player Russell “Crazy Legs” Patterson
of the Indianapolis Clowns. He actually snores at night,
in case you all were wondering. I’ve worked on about a dozen pensions and I’ve tracked down over a hundred
Negro league ball players, constantly finding new ball players, getting them in touch
with their former teammates, bringing baseball back
into these players’ lives and bringing these guys
back into the game. (Music) Thank you! (Applause)

41 thoughts on “How one teenager unearthed baseball’s untold history – Cam Perron

  1. Really inspiring!!! Awesome talk and awesome kid 😀 Never really understood the big fuzz about fame, honor, baseball or sport in general but I understand respect!!! 😀

  2. This didn't even close resemble an educational talk…
    All about "I did this, I did that", and that's all he talks about…
    Btw, all that with a lot of gang body language…

  3. There is nothing wrong with him saying negro leaguers. Doesn't bother me. Thank you for bringing light to a part of our history that many of us are unaware of.

  4. I found this educational, something does not have to be completely intellectual for it to teach you something. This is wonderful and inspiring. It fills me with hope to see people like this guy!

  5. I'm a teenager as well and I know that I want to do great things with my life, but I have always been under the impression that I'm powerless now, so these great things are to come in my future. This video was a huge inspiration to me because it made me realize that I do have power at my age and that I need to use it.

  6. I've got it!  If you want to be an investigative reporter or a detective you need to have the hair:  black, longish, naturally curly.  Like Sherlock.  Elementary.  Watch this kid's progress.

  7. I think the potential for others to mimic what Cam has accomplished in a variety of topics, subjects, and issues.  He had passion!  Let's uncover that passion in our own students in our own classrooms.

  8. Passion paired with knowing right from wrong .. this is an amazing kid who gave well deserved life and light to the players again. Black history is AMERICAN history .

  9. 因為看了這篇報導 (https://opinion.cw.com.tw/blog/profile/217/article/2106) 才有緣看到的這段影片

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