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Indianapolis honors Negro Leagues heritage

Soup Nazi heads to Frederick, Ickey Woods on tap in Bowling Green
August 11, 2015

Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we preview the most intriguing for the week ahead. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature in the future, please send it to [email protected] with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet  to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."

In the same way the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and others occupy the highest tiers in the stratosphere of Major League Baseball mythology, teams like the Kansas City Monarchs, Pittsburgh Crawfords and Detroit Stars tower over the history of the Negro Leagues. Among those titans of black baseball were the Indianapolis Clowns -- the "Harlem Globetrotters of Baseball" -- and their sport's descendants in Indy will pay tribute to the Clowns this week while aiming to inspire the next generation of their city's stars.

"Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is recognized for its history and traditions," Indianapolis Indians senior marketing and communications manager Jon Glesing said. "Without being a Major League city, the Circle City's baseball history revolves around the Indianapolis Indians and Indianapolis Clowns. Since the Clowns have ceased to exist since the late 1980s, nights like Aug. 14 seem especially relevant when the Indiana Civil Rights Commission looked to us for a partnership."

The Indians will take the field sporting Clowns jerseys on Friday night in the latest show of their milestone partnership with Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) initiative.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to honor the Clowns for their impact on the Central Indiana community," said Jamal Smith, the executive director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. "Additionally, we wish to shed light on the struggles for equality they faced, and that are still faced today. 

"We are excited about the 4th Annual Civil Rights Game," he added. "It gives is an opportunity to promote the importance of equitable education and speak to Hoosiers in large scale."

The Indians have joined forces with Play Ball Indiana, their local chapter of RBI (and not to be confused with MLB and USA Baseball's new Play Ball program) in a five-year partnership valued at more than $100,000 to focus on providing access for Central Indiana children to play baseball and softball as well as use sports to help them academically and socially. The Indians will outfit 10 area RBI teams each summer and pitch in to rehabilitate RBI fields around the city and more.

"We look forward to helping Play Ball Indiana achieve its goals of giving every youth who wants to play the game of baseball the opportunity to do so," Indians general manager Randy Lewandowski said in June when the partnership was announced. "Joining forces offers the entire Indianapolis Indians organization the opportunity to expand our commitment to be role models for Central Indiana's young people, and help them develop into responsible and productive adults."

This week's special jerseys auction benefiting Play Ball Indiana is the fourth of five Indians jersey auctions supporting non-profits this season. Fans who wish to bid but can't attend Friday's game will be able to do so through the Indians' site.

Best of the Rest

Inland Empire 66ers (California League)
Lebowski Night and Rock Glass Giveaway, Aug. 13

"Hey careful, man, there's a beverage here!" The 66ers will abide on Thirsty Thursday when they honor the 1998 classic The Big Lebowski at San Manuel Stadium. In addition to drink specials throughout the evening, Inland Empire will hand out team-branded rock glasses while supplies last. Though no special jersey is planned for this tribute night, Jeff Bridges' sweater is really begging to be immortalized in Minor League top form. Or maybe the rug. After all, it really tied the room together.

Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)
Ickey Woods Appearance on Cold Cut Night, Aug. 15

GEICO can come out with some annoying commecials, but perhaps their best one ever (and I will box you if you say otherwise) was last year's grocery store masterpiece featuring former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods. The four-year pro -- who delivered the final line of that commercial like an Oscar-winner, by the way -- will catch the Hot Rods in action as they show their support for the unheralded meats that make bagged lunches possible.

Frederick Keys (Carolina League)
Seinfeld Night with Soup Nazi Appearance, Aug. 15

Researching this promotion sucked me down an Internet rabbit hole in which I learned that the actor who played the "Soup Nazi," Larry Thomas, has the website -- which looks like it's a holdover from 1997 GeoCities -- while the guy who was the inspiration for the Soup Nazi (Al Yeganeh) has been relegated to, which is a far better site that for some reason features Shaquille O'Neal. Also, Thomas was apparently in a 2014 movie (something Ben Hill blogged about, of course) about a college baseball team that looks exactly like the Orem Owlz. The Internet is strange. It'll be Yeganeh in attendance at Harry Grove Stadium on Saturday.

Eugene Emeralds (Northwest League)
Civic Stadium Jerseys, Aug. 16

After their long-time home burned to the ground on June 29, the Emeralds bade farewell to Civic Stadium with a tribute featuring former players and coaches as well as throwback uniforms on July 29. They'll say one final goodbye to the venerable facility on Sunday. The Ems will sport special Civic Stadium jerseys designed by in-house graphic artist Danny Cowley when they take on Everett. In the spirit of the evening, uniform manufacturer Wilson donated the jerseys to be used for the rememberance. Fans will be able to bid on the jerseys throughout the evening with proceeds going to the Eugene Civic Alliance, a non-profit group established to plan the next chapter of the Civic Stadium site.

Quick Hits

Aug. 12: As the younger of two children, I had no idea there was such a thing as Middle Child Day, but the Bowie Baysox, Bowling Green Hot Rods and Lakewood BlueClaws all did. They'll be honoring middle children everywhere on (fittingly) Wednesday.

More on Middle Child Day events from Benjamin Hill over at Cut4 »

Aug. 13: The Durham Bulls will honor Durham's independent label with their third annual Merge Records Night. … Black gold is the name of the game in West Texas, and the Midland RockHounds will sport special oil worker-themed jerseys as they kick off Oil Field Weekend. It's a jersey you can vote for in Jersey Joust. … The Syracuse Chiefs welcome the Washington Nationals' Racing Presidents and also honor the folically challenged with #Balditude Night. ... The Lake Elsinore Storm recall Arnold Schwarzenegger's eight-year (!) reign of governance of California with AHHH-nold Night featuring a bobble-biceps giveaway.

Aug. 14: Widely agreed to be the worst holiday ever by people who have forgotten to do something special for it, Valentine's Day is on the brains of the El Paso Chihuahuas, who will remind you that you're only six months away from shelling out $45 for a dozen roses with their Halfway to Valentine's Day promotion… The Racing Presidents take their traveling road show one step down the Nationals ladder when they visit the Harrisburg Senators. … The Modesto Nuts imagine "What Might Have Been "when they take the field as the Modesto Cruisers.

Aug. 15: The Asheville Tourists continue their celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Tourists nickname with a 1994 replica jersey giveaway. … The Birmingham Barons let fans vote on which jersey they'd sport for Star Wars Night, and fans went for the Storm Trooper look. … In California's capital, it'll be less Evil Empire and more Old World Empire when the Sacramento River Cats honor Olmec, Kirk Fogg and the game show that was impossible to win with special Legends of the Hidden Temple jerseys on '90s night.

Aug. 16: In his entire baseball career, Ryan Zimmerman has only played in 89 Minor League games -- and only 22 of those since he first broke into the big leagues in 2005. Though just 10 of those contests have been with the Potomac Nationals, that won't deter the P-Nats from honoring The Z Man with his own Potomac bobblehead.

Aug. 18: There is zero explanation for the Carolina Mudcats' Salute to the Pickle, so one can only imagine the pickle-themed insanity that will ensue. Sweet or dill? Relish or … not relish? … Blue Jays injured pitcher Marcus Stroman gets his own bobblehead for the first 1,000 fans through the Vancouver Canadians' gates.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.