Bronzeville apparel shop honors the Negro Baseball League in a place where it started

By Ebony JJ Curry
Medill Reports

In 1992, Bruce Gage saw a young man wearing a Negro League Baseball cap at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. “I was like wow,” he said. “If they’re going to wear baseball caps, I’m going to introduce [more people] to the Negro League baseball caps.”

Since then, Gage and his partner Jimmy White have built their company Flyball into a full line of apparel — not just hats, but also shirts, neckties and sweaters. They feature five teams from the Negro Baseball Leagues… including the Chicago American Giants. “The cool thing about the Negro League a lot of people don’t know is that it started right here in Bronzeville,” he said.

Gage operates Flyball from a storefront in Bronzeville, a place with a direct connection to the man who helped found the league. “In 1920, a guy by the name of Rube Foster organized the Negro League right here,” Gage said. Foster lived in the neighborhood, a few blocks from Flyball’s offices.

“He was a great pitcher but he knew he’d never play white baseball,” said Gage. “He started this league in 1920. It was unfortunate that he only got to see 10 years of the Negro League because he died in 1930.”

Photo at top: Pennants of teams from the Negro Leagues on the walls at Flyball in Bronzeville. (Ebony Curry/MEDILL)