Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI), and executive produced by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (Oscar-winning SUMMER OF SOUL), Tariq Trotter (DESCENDANT), and produced by RadicalMedia , 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. Director Sam Pollard (Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power, Citizen Ashe, Tiger) joins us for a conversation on the multi-layered history of the Black ballplayer’s quest for inclusion, compensation and respect. The story begins in 1890’s Jim Crow laws forcing out the few Black players already playing with white players in the nascent professional leagues and culminates with the signing of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson to a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers and soon after Larry Dolby to a contract with the American League’s Cleveland Indians.
About the filmmaker – Sam Pollard is a veteran feature film and television video editor, and documentary producer/director. Between 1990 and 2010, he edited a number of Spike Lee films: Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Clockers, and Bamboozled. Pollard and Lee co-produced a number of documentary productions for the small and big screen, including Four Little Girls, a feature-length documentary about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings which was nominated for an Academy Award® in 1998 and When The Levees Broke, a four-part documentary that won numerous awards, including a Peabody and three Emmy Awards. Five years later 2010 he co-produced and supervised the edit on the follow up, If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise. As a producer/director, since 2015, his credits include: Slavery By Another Name, (2015) a 90-minute documentary for PBS that was in competition at the Sundance Festival; August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand, (2015) a 90-minute documentary for American Masters; Two Trains Runnin, a feature length documentary, which premiered at the Full Frame Film Festival in 2016; and Sammy Davis Jr., I’ve Gotta Be Me for American Masters premièred at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. In 2019, he co-directed the six-part series, Why We Hate, which premiered on The Discovery Channel. In 2020 he was one of the directors on the 2020 HBO Series Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children. also that year, he completed MLK/FBI, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was also featured at the New York Film Festival.
“Where “The League” sparkles is in its retrieving interviews with the great pitcher Paige, Monte Irvin and other Negro Leagues stars who lived long enough for the country to start interviewing Black baseball players about those years.” – Roger Moore, Movie Nation