A 100th Anniversary Tribute to Negro League Players
On June 29, 2020, four former United States presidents tipped their caps to the great players of the Negro Leagues, an unprecedented salute to the men and women denied the chance to play in the Major Leagues. This was in celebration — and commemoration — of the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Negro Leagues.
The Players’ Journal would like our contributors also to give a “Tip of the Cap” by writing a tribute to one of these Negro League legends.
Beyond just honoring a legendary player, writing a tribute is a valuable writing skill to practice for future use. This writing experience offers very relevant writing practice because at some point in your life you’ll probably be called on to introduce a loved or admired person to an audience and honor them in some way.
Your readers want to hear why this person is being honored. As mentioned above, the occasion is the 100th Anniversary of the Negro Leagues. Your audience may or may not be aware of this anniversary, so help them out by providing some historical context about the Negro Leagues and their importance. In some cases the person receiving the tribute will be present at the occasion, so keep that in mind. Very few players from the Negro Leagues are still alive, but you may imagine what it would be like if their children or grandchildren — or their fans — had a chance to read your piece. Knowing these folks could be a part of your audience may influence your decisions about how to approach the task.
- Choose the person to whom you’ll pay tribute. A few names for consideration: Rube Foster, Buck O’Neil, Ernie Banks, Minnie Miñoso, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, John Henry Lloyd, “Cyclone” Joe Williams, Cool Papa Bell or Larry Doby.
- Analyze the audience. Knowing the person and occasion will help you determine the needs, attitudes, and knowledge of your audience. It will also help you choose the most effective tone and content. You’ll also want to think about traits of your audience in order to imagine what questions they’ll bring to the occasion. Questions such as…
- Who is this person?
- Why are they being honored?
- Seriously, what makes them so special?
- Brainstorm material. Think of a tribute as a kind of argument in which you are offering a claim (this person is special and deserves recognition) and supplying supporting evidence and illustrations to support that claim. Brainstorm material that will be compelling and appropriate.
- Draft. As you write, be aware of the time this would take you to read as a speech. You are not the star of the show. You’re just the warm-up act.
- Try out your tribute. Tributes are best appreciated when read aloud. Find some willing listeners who are not the person being honored and see how they respond.
- Take inspiration from examples. When reflecting on how to flesh out, reorganize or refine your draft, it can be helpful to draw on examples. If you haven’t done so already, watch some of these Tipping Your Cap videos and consider what’s effective about them. Can you borrow anything from the approach those speakers took and apply it to your writing? Be careful not to plagiarize — rather, just take inspiration and make it your own.
- Revise, edit, and polish. Time permitting make this as good as you can and then submit for review.