Dave Winfield and Ken Griffey Jr. will be among the advisers for a permanent exhibit that re-examines the contributions of Jackie Robinson and others.
On Baseball | Jackie Robinson Day
Jackie Robinson lived only a decade as a Hall of Famer. He suffered from diabetes and died of a heart attack at age 53, in 1972. Robinson had integrated the major leagues a quarter-century before, and he never stopped striving for social justice.
“I marvel at how much this man did in such a short period of time,” said Doug Glanville, a former major league outfielder and an ESPN analyst, who gave his son the middle name Robinson. “He lived, like, five lifetimes. He was in his 50s when he passed away, and you sit there and go, ‘How in the world did he do all this? How did he take all this on?’”
Glanville teaches a class on sports and society at the University of Connecticut and assigns students a letter Robinson wrote to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in 1960, urging King to help quell the infighting between the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the N.A.A.C.P. Robinson co-founded a Black-owned bank in Harlem, served as a columnist for New York newspapers and wrote in his autobiography that he could not stand and sing the national anthem.
His contributions, in other words, went much deeper than suiting up for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947. As Major League Baseball celebrates the 75th anniversary of Robinson’s debut, his legacy is getting a thorough re-examination at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The Hall will announce on Friday that it has begun a two-year project to create a permanent exhibit on Black baseball. This will replace the current one — Ideals and Injustices — which was installed in 1997 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s debut.
“We know that there’s a greater depth to these stories that probably wasn’t told in the past, including more Black perspectives and interpretations,” said Josh Rawitch, the president of the Hall of Fame.
“If you think about the research that’s been done and the way that society now understands the racism that existed both before and since Jackie Robinson, those are all really important things that in some ways are tackled in the current exhibit but in other ways probably not done to the extent that they can be.”
The advisory board for the project will include several former players — Glanville, Adam Jones, Dave Stewart and the Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin and Dave Winfield — as well as historians and representatives from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., and the Players Alliance, a nonprofit made up of current and former players. Rawitch has also spoken with current players, like Dee Strange-Gordon of the Washington Nationals, who could be involved.
The Hall — located in a mostly white community and with a mostly white staff — has also created a new, full-time position for someone to help coordinate the project from a different perspective.
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“We have to be able to tell the story authentically,” Rawitch said. “So, with that, we are searching for a curator who’s lived the experience either through their race, through their studies or through their understanding of what it was like to experience what these players experienced.”
Winfield pointed out that the Hall of Fame had inducted many more Black players and officials since 1997 — more than three dozen, including pioneers like Bud Fowler, Minnie Miñoso and Buck O’Neil in this year’s class — and said it was time for a fresh look.
“The biggest thing is that so much more history has been researched, revealed, unearthed — and this is American history,” Winfield said. “Of course it’s baseball history, but baseball is an integral part of America. You hear many times now that people are trying to erase or whitewash history, and that’s not good. It’s very important that worthy people can take their place and be recognized.”
M.L.B. officially recognized the Negro leagues as major leagues in late 2020, and the Hall has grappled with how to acknowledge the efforts by some of its inductees to uphold the color line. It has kept up all of the plaques, choosing context over erasure: A sign near the gallery entryway now reminds visitors that “enshrinement reflects the perspective of the voters at the time of election.” The museum and the library, the sign adds, provide deeper analysis — the shining and the shameful — of the inductees’ careers.
Such accounting will be essential to the new exhibit, and with more than 150 years of history to review it is a massive undertaking. Glanville said he preferred the term exploratory to advisory, because there is so much still to learn about the Black experience in baseball, so much that continues to evolve.
“There’s still a common thread, even in 2022,” Glanville said. “Pioneering efforts, whether it’s Ketanji Jackson, whatever — there’s a lot of barbed wire, there’s a lot of pain, there’s a lot of familiarity to some of the hurdles that Robinson faced.
“And at the same time, there’s a lot to celebrate, a lot of hope. Because when you are a first and you are opening certain doors, you see possibilities. You see the chance to bring everybody with you through the best of what we profess to celebrate — at least foundationally — of equality and what our country was founded on.”
Rawitch said the exhibit would have a digital and traveling component for those who cannot get to Cooperstown. It will highlight not just hardship, as Glanville suggested, but also the ways that the Black experience has enriched and enlivened baseball — a useful reminder as the sport seeks to increase Black participation numbers in the majors that have fallen sharply since their peak in the 1980s.
That was Winfield’s prime, and he said he hopes the display will feature video of stars like Griffey and Bo Jackson — and, yes, himself — climbing walls that seemed unscalable, of Rickey Henderson stealing bases at rates unheard-of today, of Dave Parker rounding the bases with a flair all his own.
“Speed, style, power — just a unique style of play,” Winfield said. “You tell people what a lot of these players accomplished, it’s almost incomprehensible.”
That is the Hall of Fame’s mission, reflected again in its newest project: to make the incomprehensible come to life, to contextualize and glorify the game-changers. Jackie Robinson is just one of many.
“Bud Fowler overcame numerous obstacles to become one of the most significant players in baseball history. In addition to being the first African American to play professional baseball, he was one of the game’s great promoters and developers—and everything he did in baseball came against the pushback of the presence of a Black man on the field. All this makes him an important barrier breaker, a notable figure in the history of our game, and a worthy recipient of this recognition. It will be my honor to speak for Bud Fowler during the Induction Ceremony on July 24.”
KRISTI DOSH FEBRUARY 17, 2022
Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies takes a picture with his phone during the 2021 T-Mobile Home Run … [+] Derby (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)Getty Images
MLB Players, Inc., the business arm of the Major League Baseball Players Association, is partnering with influencer marketing company Influential to help MLB players maximize on their growing social media influence.
The agreement gives 1,200 MLB players insights into their social media data across all leading social platforms, including TikTok, Instagram and Twitter. According to Nielsen data, athlete influencers have the ability to generate 63% more engagement than other social media content producers.
Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, says athletes make good endorsers for brands for several reasons.
“Athletes are aspirational. They pick something in their life and spend all their time dedicated to it—10,000 hours or maybe 100,000 or 200,00 hours for some athletes—and they become the best in their high school or college or at the professional level. And then nine times out of ten they’re pretty brand safe as someone to look up to beyond someone who just has a great swing or is a great pitcher.”
“There’s a certain amount of reverence around these athletes. Now we have more and more coverage and more highlights and routes for people to connect with them in multiple ways. Now they’re in your home and on your phone on social. There are new ways for consumers to really engage with athletes and brands really want to capitalize on that attention economy.”
Where fan affinity used to be attached to a team, and you rooted for whoever happened to play on that team, Detert says there’s now a marked shift to following players, even after they’ve moved on to another team.
“The window started to open up into the lives of the players. Social media has rewarded those that are the most personable. [Odell Beckham Jr.] is an amazing receiver, but he’s not the best receiver of all time. He’s probably the most followed receiver of all time though. Those that actually spend the time, the money and the effort to create fun, cool content have won the hearts of America.”
Angels center fielder Mike Trout, for example, has 1.9 million followers on Instagram—approximately double what the Angels have on the same platform.
“Now what we see is that fan don’t just follow a team. They’re going to follow their players,” said Detert. “If I’m a Peyton Manning fan, maybe I started rooting for the Broncos even though I’m a Colts fan.”
There’s data to back up Detert’s assertion. Influential’s data below shows that fan affinity, described as excitement and engagement, has steadily declined in each of the past five years while it has increased each year for players. In the chart below, excitement and engagement is measured by positive sentiment towards a player or team, conversation volume (how much the team or player is being discussed), and the level of liking, comment, or sharing of the team’s or player’s content.
Fan affinity has declined for MLB teams while increasing each of the last five years for playersInfluential
Evan Kaplan, managing director of MLB Players, Inc., says his organization had been trying to pull together this sort of information on its own but was coming up short. Former certified MLBPA agent and lawyer Rick Licht, who has represented baseball legends including Ken Griffey, Jr., Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti, Alex Rodriguez, Bobby Bonilla, Royce Clayton and Ernie Banks, helped bring the MLBPA and Influential together.
“That’s exactly why we’re partnering with Influential, to have access to more data. The research we’ve done so far says the same thing. If a player and a team and a league all post, the player will have the greatest engagement. It’s the authenticity. It’s that connection with a favorite player.”
“Sports have evolved. Where I grew up rooting for my favorite teams, I find that with my son, when his favorite player gets traded, his affinity moves. So, the connection between the fan and the players has evolved to the point where they want that authentic voice, and they want to hear from the players. That goes hand-in-hand with the brands that want to reinforce that those relationships.”
The shift in fan affinity is not unique to MLBInfluential
MLB players will have the opportunity to secure and execute branded campaigns with Influential’s wide range of Fortune 500 clients. Backed by IBM Watson, Influential’s AI-powered Social Intelligence technology facilitates connections with top global brands like Ford and McDonald’s.
“Brands used to come to us in the era when Chipper Jones was playing and say, ‘I want a notable player in Atlanta,’ and Chipper was notable, so we’d go and try to get a deal done,” said Kaplan. “Now, they come to us with tight demographics saying they’re trying to reach this audience or this age group. So, all this information from Influential just helps us put better partnerships together between our players and brands.”
MLB Hall of Famer Dave Winfield says he sees the value in the partnership.
“The advances in technology have put players in the driver’s seat when it comes to managing their personal brands,” said Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. “I am excited to see how current players will use Influential’s platform to connect with a wider audience and advance their business goals.”
Kaplan says MLB has been very supportive of players growing and leveraging their social platforms.
“MLB has been really good about recognizing the importance of players in improving their social. They’ve put tools out there like their partnership with Greenfly to provide access to all their game footage, clips and photographs and make it readily available for players. They want them to engage with fans because it’s one of those high tide raises all ships kind of things that elevates the sport. So, they’ve been great about promoting players and giving them tools to have greater engagement with fans.”
Influential has previously worked with the NFL and NBA, and has activated millions of dollars in name, image and likeness deals for student athletes.
BY MATT CARTER
December 10, 2021
A new blank check company whose management team has deep roots in financial software is looking for acquisition opportunities, with a focus on the mortgage and real estate verticals.
Southport Acquisition Corp. on Friday priced an initial public offering of 20,000,000 units at $10 a unit, and plans to raise up to $234.6 million if underwriter BofA Securities exercises a 45-day option to purchase an additional 3 million units. Each unit consists of one share of common stock, and one-half of a warrant, with whole warrants redeemable for one share of common stock for $11.50 per share.Sign up for Inman’s Morning HeadlinesWhat you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developmentsSign me upBy submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Led by TVC Capital cofounder and managing partner Jeb Spencer, and Northgate Capital veteran Jared Stone, Southport Acquisition Corp.’s board of directors includes Ellie Mae cofounder Sig Anderman, SimpleNexus CEO Cathleen Schreiner Gates, and Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.
The company is looking for “a leading financial services software or FinTech partner, with particular focus on mortgage and real estate software verticals, that generates between $50 million and $100 million of revenues and is valued between $1 billion and $2 billion,” the company said in an investor prospectus. “By employing our management team’s industry skills, experience, and extensive personal network, we believe we will be able to add substantial value to a target business, which we believe will enable us to be perceived as a preferred M&A partner.”
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Three members of Southport Acquisition Corp.’s management team are veterans of Ellie Mae, the mortgage technology developer acquired for $11.4 billion by Intercontinental Exchange Inc. in September, 2020. Today, the ICE Mortgage Technology platform processes about half of all U.S. mortgages.
Southport Acquisition Corp. board member Sig Anderman cofounded Ellie Mae and served as its CEO and chairman from 1997 through January 2015. Anderman then served as executive chairman until 2019, when Ellie Mae was acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo.
Southport Acquisition Corp.’s CEO, Jeb Spencer, was the CEO of Del Mar Datatrac Inc., which was sold to Ellie Mae in 2011. Spencer then served on Ellie Mae’s board of directors from 2011 to 2019, where his duties included chairing the company’s mergers and acquisitions committee. Today, as a managing partner of TVC Capital, Spencer services on the boards of eight software companies, including Centage Corp. and SimpleNexus.
Southport Acquisition Corp. board member Cathleen Schreiner Gates is the CEO of SimpleNexus, which is being acquired by cloud banking solutions developer nCino Inc. in a $1.2 billion deal that is expected to close by Jan. 31. Before SimpleNexus, Schreiner Gates spent more than 7 years at Ellie Mae, the last 4 years as executive vice president of sales and marketing.
Jared Stone, the chairman of Southport Acquisition Corp.’s board of directors, cofounded the private equity investment firm Northgate Capital in 2001, where he served as a managing director until 2015. He co-led Northgate’s investment in Del Mar Datatrac, which was sold to Fiserv in 2005 and to Ellie Mae in 2011. He’s served on the board of Centage Corp. since 2014.
After a 22-year career in Major League Baseball, Southport Acquisition Corp. board member Dave Winfield in 1995 established Winfield & Winfield Ltd., a personal services corporation that provides business development, consulting and advocacy services.