Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI), executive produced by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (Oscar-winning SUMMER OF SOUL), Tariq Trotter (DESCENDANT), and produced by RadicalMedia, THE LEAGUE celebrates the dynamic journey of Negro League baseball’s triumphs and challenges through the first half of the twentieth century. The story is told through previously unearthed archival footage and never-before-seen interviews with legendary players like Satchel Paige and Buck O’Neil – whose early careers paved the way for the Jackie Robinson era – as well as celebrated Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Hank Aaron who started out in the Negro Leagues.
The feature-length documentary debuts at the Tribeca Festival in New York on Monday and opens in theaters July 7 and on digital July 14.
From entrepreneurial titans Cumberland Posey and Gus Greenlee, whose intense rivalry fueled the rise of two of the best baseball teams ever to play the game, to Effa Manley, the activist owner of the Newark Eagles and the only woman ever admitted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, THE LEAGUE explores Black baseball as an economic and social pillar of Black communities and a stage for some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game, while also examining the unintended consequences of integration.
“My vision was simple,” said Pollard. “Find voices of those who played the game, surround them with historians and fans of the Negro Leagues, use as much archival footage and stills I could find and, to add drama, shoot period recreations and create animation that would add another level of cinematic texture to the film. Fortunately, I was able to find the voices of former Negro League players because Byron Motley (whose dad, Bob Motley, had been a Negro League Umpire) had interviewed and recorded many former players years ago.”
Producers are Robin Espinola, Dave Sirulnick, Jen Isaacson and Byron Motley.