Legends of The Road is a deeply moving account of 28 public high school students from Chief Sealth High School, in Seattle, Washington, who in 1999-2000 completed an extraordinary research project on a largely unknown baseball phenomenon known as barnstorming. And, then in 2000, re-created a “Barnstorming Tour” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of barnstorming.
Except this tour was done on bicycles: 71 days, 33 games, 5,100 miles.
Legends of The Road offers a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look as the students undertook to create, and ultimately produce, this wonderful, un-told, historical project.
While many American and Canadian sports fans are familiar with the Negro Leagues, and many more with iconic players Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Buck O’Neil, few are aware of the barnstormers who traversed two countries playing the game they loved in the face of rampant prejudice and discrimination. Their journeys dispelled the notion of white supremacy on the baseball field and fostered the breakdown of racial stereotypes, leading Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to say: “They laid down the first plank in the Civil Rights movement.”
While thousands saw these barnstormers play against local teams, their exploits and travails are largely unknown, a fact that resonated with these students, who felt it was a story worth bringing to light. Over the two years, the students uncovered more documented information on barnstorming than the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Baseball Hall of Fame had in their collections – combined.
Including students from Victoria, British Columbia, the Legends barnstorming tour in 2000 generated extensive media coverage in the US and Canada for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. While not facing the same discrimination the black players endured, the students nonetheless faced significant challenges. On many days they rode more than 100 miles to play a ballgame that night. At times, they weren’t able to find accommodations, and they too were frequently short on cash. And, like their black barnstorming counterparts, they overcame those challenges and helped save a piece of American and Canadian history.
Featuring candid, provocative behind the scenes classroom footage, and exhilarating video during the epic trip, the story is both inspiring and historically important.
The film draws from 30 hours of behind the scenes classroom footage as the students labored to research and produce the project, 55 hours of interviews with former Negro Leagues players (and players who played against them), 8 hours of interviews with Buck O’Neil and Bob Kendrick (now President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum) and 11 hours of interviews with historians.
When the students started the project in 1999, roughly 207 Negro Leagues ballplayers were still living. Today, that number is barely 100. During an interview in 2000 with the legendary Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, he told the students, “When all us old barnstormers are gone, all them barnstormin’ stories gonna go with us. Ain’t nobody gonna know.”
With “Legends of the Road,” now they will.