A tribute to players who broke baseball’s boundaries

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It’s fair to say that Jerry Franklin, branch manager of the Richmond Library, is a devoted baseball fan.

A baseball-memorabilia collector since his youth, Franklin has decided to share some of his collection with visitors to the library, at 2987 Almond St., in a display that focuses on the amazing athletes who moved from the Negro National League to the majors.

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“When I was growing up, I collected all these baseball cards,” a smiling Franklin said as he proudly shared the display he calls Breaking Barriers: From the Philadelphia Stars to Richie Allen, now on view at the library branch.

ldquo;I played soccer for forty years,” he added, “but baseball is the best game.”

The exhibit is a mix of baseball cards, pamphlets and even a ball signed by a number of notable players. The collection includes memorabilia from great players who played for the Philadelphia Stars in the old Negro National League — players like Bill Cash, Mahlon Duckett, Stanley Glemm, Harold Gould and Wilmer Harris.

Franklin said he wanted to celebrate Philadelphia’s other team, the Stars, which existed before Jackie Robinson broke major-league baseball’s color barrier when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

“Baseball is a mirror of society,” said Franklin. “So I sought out the names of players who crossed over (from one league to the other).”

Franklin said the gems of this collection, though, are the pieces from Richie Allen, who played for the Phillies during the 1960s and returned briefly in the mid-’70s.

Franklin described the talented but rebellious slugger as one of the last players who “dealt with racism head on.”

“He’s like, the end of all this,” said Franklin. “Everyone knows the story.”

In the early 1960s, Allen, a Pennsylvania native, played for a Phillies minor-league team in Little Rock, Ark., and years later he’d recall the racism he encountered on and off the field. During his first full season with the Phillies, in 1964, Allen blossomed as a star at third base and was the National League Rookie of the Year. But Allen, even as he rose to become a star of the game, often clashed with team management and was traded after the ’69 season.

On display in his library exhibit, Franklin said, are many of the baseball cards he collected as a child while following Allen’s career. Some of his most prized pieces are the cards and other memorabilia that Allen has signed.

“When I was growing up, you didn’t save cards, you played with them,” Franklin said. “Now, kids are coming in here and they know Richie Allen. They know how good he was, and they can connect to it.”

Franklin also has plucked a selection of books from the library’s collection that deal with the history of baseball and specifically the era of the Negro National League.

He considers it a way to get more kids interested in reading. His exhibit was mounted in February, in observance of Black History Month, but Franklin plans to keep it going for the foreseeable future.

“It took a while to get it here, so I plan to let it last for a few months,” he said. ••

“Breaking Barriers: From the Philadelphia Stars to Richie Allen” can be viewed during regular hours at the Richmond Library, 2987 Richmond St. For more information, call the library at 215–685–9992.

Star managing editor Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215–354–3124 or hmitman@bsmphilly.com

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