CHICAGO -- The link between the White Sox, the history of black baseball in Chicago and the city's South Side has always been strong. That connection was celebrated Tuesday morning with the dedication of a mural depicting some of the greatest African-American players in Chicago and baseball history at the Lovana S. "Lou" Jones/35th St. Station.
"Honoring tradition and celebrating heritage is an important value of the White Sox," White Sox executive vice president Howard Pizer said. "What we appreciate most about the concept of this mural is that it illustrates in a beautiful manner the history and importance of African Americans, the Negro Leagues and people like Jackie Robinson who have played a key role in creating the game we love: baseball."
The 10-foot-by-40-foot, five-panel mural was commissioned by the White Sox at the special request of Congressman Bobby Rush and painted by Chicago artist Billy Jackson with help from local art students. It is under the Metra viaduct on the north side of 35th Street, steps away from U.S. Cellular Field.
The painting by Jackson was the 26-year-old's second large-scale public work. He began the project in mid-July and completed it in late August.
"I would like to thank [the White Sox] for the opportunity for me to get an understanding of the Negro League players," said Jackson, who broke down while speaking. "We can never forget where we came from and we will never forget where we're going, as well. Because where we came from are only the stepping stones for where we are going."
Numerous people were on hand for the unveiling, including White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and White Sox great Minnie Minoso, who posed for pictures beneath his depiction in the mural.
Rush, Chicago 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell and Metra officials also were present at the ceremony.
"This entrance still lacked something, something beautiful that lets visitors know that this represents more than just an entrance into a transit station," Dowell said. "The mural does just that."
The mural includes a timeline of baseball on Chicago's South Side with the Negro Leagues, the integration of baseball, legendary black White Sox players and the 2005 World Series championship won by the White Sox.
Players depicted in the mural include Rube Foster, the founder of the Chicago American Giants, Negro Leaguers Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson and Robinson. It also includes White Sox legends like Minoso, Harold Baines, Frank Thomas and 2005 World Series Most Valuable Player Jermaine Dye.
Rush said he hopes the mural can be a teaching tool for parents and the community to share with young people the history of black baseball and what is still to come.
"That's part of what motivated me to get this mural here on 35th St., to tell the largely untold history of African Americans in the sport of baseball, and I'm grateful for the vision of the White Sox, Metra and the young artist that made this happen," Rush said. "I believe this beautiful piece of public art will connect not only with the White Sox fans that take Metra to U.S. Cellular Field, but also it will connect to the young men and women of all races who walk by this path."