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'The Past Isn't Always Positive': New Reds Exhibit Revisits Segregation In Baseball

Reds Hall of Fame Director Rick Walls reads the caption on one of the paintings on display.
Bill Rinehart
Reds Hall of Fame Director Rick Walls reads the caption on one of the paintings on display.

A traveling exhibit on baseball's Negro Leagues is now open at the Reds Hall of Fame. Executive Director Rick Walls says because there aren't many artifacts from the league, which existed until Major League Baseball was fully integrated, "Shades of Greatness" is a collection of artworks. Walls says he wants people to come away from the exhibit with a sense of "what if?"

"It is meant to be thought-provoking," he says. "There are some items within the exhibit that will pull at your heartstrings. There are some that will make you angry. But I think an art exhibit is meant to do that. It's meant to allow you to think about baseball in a different way. When you look back at the history of the game and you try to realize, how could the game of baseball, America's national pastime, segregate its players like that?"

Walls says the exhibit is designed to give visitors a feel of what it was like to play or watch a game in segregated America. "We believe baseball is America and we don't want to ignore any part of the game's past. The game's past isn't always positive."

Walls says it ties in with the hall's "Pursuit of a Dream" exhibit, which highlights diversity in baseball and some of the great African Americans in Reds history.

The exhibit from the Kansas City museum features 35 pieces of art, including painting, sculpture and multi-media works. It's at the Reds Hall of Fame until April 17.

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Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio: and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.