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. 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.
KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “The League is an intriguing sports film documenting the camaraderie and competition embedded in the evolution of the Negro leagues.” Sydney S. adds, “I like the documentary, The League, and how it celebrates racial justice through a common passion: baseball. The combination of animation and film footage makes it visually appealing. I admire all the people involved in the film, as well as its historical perspective.” See their full reviews and interviews below.
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
The League is an intriguing sports film documenting the camaraderie and competition embedded in the evolution of the Negro leagues. Despite its mix of newly unearthed interviews, carefully chosen music, and crisp and clear b-roll, the film falls short of a home run due to its slightly sluggish pace.
The League uses Black baseball as a lens to view the US pre-, post-, and during integration. An economic and social pillar of Black communities and a stage for some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game, The League also explores many unintended consequences of integration. It’s a story of trials and tribulations, but also rousing victories.
The film offers a portrait of a community that weathered discrimination and marginalization and used a common passion — the sport of baseball — to shape their community in a time of new rights and a more integrated society. A jazz fan and lifelong film student himself, director Sam Pollard effectively sews together never-before-seen interview footage, historically rooted jazz tunes and a clear, if at times circuitous, narrative in The League. At times, the film loses itself in descriptions of individual players and it becomes hard to maintain the big-picture view of the Negro leagues. However, the crisp visuals and voiceovers – one by Pollard himself, of the late Negro league umpire, author and US marine, Bob Motley.
The League promotes resilience through a mix of self-reliance, resourcefulness and teamwork.
I give The League 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The League releases exclusively in AMC Theaters on July 7, 2023.
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
This documentary is perfect for anyone interested in sports and/or history. It has eye-opening material that is very educational while keeping one invested in the story. I learned so much about the Negro leagues and their importance to baseball and all of America.
The League honors the journey of the Negro leagues baseball and highlights the contributions of many, including Bob Motley, Rube Foster and Effa Manley, while also spotlighting the incredible teams like the Newark Eagles, Kansas City Monarchs, Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays. It investigates the start, the glory days, the challenges and the decline of the Negro leagues from many different points of view. It also explores the impact the Negro leagues had on the communities where they played.
If you have a passion for history and baseball, this is a great watch. It goes behind headlines and takes an opportunity to dig deeper into everything about the leagues and the MLB. Even if you’re not very knowledgeable about baseball (like me), this documentary is certainly one to watch. The director, Sam Pollard, gives a very thoughtful performance as he voices Bob Motley’s perspective and experience as an umpire in the Negro leagues. In addition to Bob Motley’s thoughts, this movie also uncovers never-before seen interviews with Negro leagues’ players and explanations from amazing historians and authors such as Larry Lester, Andrea Williams, Bob Kendrick and Dr. Lawrence Hogan.
The League demonstrates all the courage, passion, and determination of so many people. It gives you an in-depth view of the complexity of the Negro leagues. There are a few heavy topics covered in this movie that may not be suitable for a younger audience.
I give The League 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. I especially recommend it to those interested in baseball. It releases in theaters July 7, 2023.
By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13
I like the documentary, The League, and how it celebrates racial justice through a common passion: baseball. The combination of animation and film footage makes it visually appealing. I admire all the people involved in the film, as well as its historical perspective.
This storyline follows the creation of the Negro League and how playing baseball changed the course of history forever. Despite their obstacles, the league is part of an important social movement.
The directors of the film are Jeff Schaffer and Jackie Marcus Schaffer, both of whom are also part of the fifteen person writing team. They excel at spotlighting the various points of view and personal stories for the large number of people involved. The interview subjects include Phil Dixon, Andrea Williams, Larry Lester, Bob Kendrick, Leslie Heaphy, Rob Ruck, James Brunson, Layton Revel, Larry Hogan and Jim Overmyer. Each of them has a story about how the Negro League changed their life or their family’s lives. A big part of bringing together the Negro League is collaboration. Every person involved helped grow the league and connect it altogether. Baseball is for everyone. That is shown when the Eastern Colored League and the Negro National League play each other in the very first Colored World Series. Fantastic players such as Hank Aaron and Willie Mays actually started their career in the Negro League. They made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This shows how foundations are built from the ground up. These players were not spectacular when they started, but they kept practicing and were dedicated to learning the sport. In fact, the League was pretty unprivileged at first, but that didn’t stop them from playing their hearts out. They did the best they could with what they had and that led the Negro League to victory later on. It brought people together and also brought better opportunities to their lives.
The League is full of pride about how much they have accomplished and how it sparked the rise of Black professionals in the 20th Century. I like how animation is used in this film, varying from never-before-seen footage to animated run-throughs of the game in action. The music also adds to the effect because it builds anticipation. Despite the Great Depression and segregation through America, baseball was a tie that kept people together.
The film’s message is that passion and stamina are essential for achieving your dreams. It also enforces that idea that your ethnicity, or what someone else thinks about you, doesn’t dictate who you are as a person or an athlete.
I give The League 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in Theaters July 7, 2023 and will begin streaming July 14, 2023.