Analysis

Dennis “Bose” Biddle, Negro League Advocate

Adversity. If one word were to describe the life of Dennis “Bose” Biddle, it would without a doubt be adversity. Just two years after he became the youngest player to appear in the Negro Leagues at the ripe age of 17 with the Chicago American Giants, his career seemed hopeless. He had suffered a fractured ankle that did not heal while in Spring Training with the Chicago Cubs. While in 2019 it may have been able to heal through surgical intervention, 1955 was a different world. He faced adversity throughout that Spring Training leading up to his gruesome injury. He faced adversity on his path from the Negro Leagues to the Cubs. He faced adversity on his path to the Negro Leagues. While his adversity-filled playing days were over, his life would be filled with adversity for years to come.

Nearly sixty years after the Negro Leagues died, many all time great ball players have been forgotten as time has passed. The likes of Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and most notably Major League pioneer Jackie Robinson will never be forgotten. Tragically, behind those legends are terrific ball players whose names have been forgotten as the generations have passed. While it is important to remember the names and stories of those legends of a bygone era, it is of equal importance to remember those who played alongside and against those 20th century legends.

A name many baseball fans are not familiar with is a player by the name of Dennis Biddle. Biddle was a right handed pitcher who grew up in the southern town of Magnolia, Arkansas. Like many of his peers, he was oppressed throughout his childhood deep in the South during the era of segregation in the United States. Unbeatable in high school (according to himself), he expected to be drafted and play in the Minor Leagues. Unfairly, the color of his skin altered that. Upset, he resigned to himself that he would instead sign to play on a football scholarship at Grambling College (now Grambling State University). One day following, he received an important phone call.

On the other end of the phone was a representative with the Chicago American Giants. The Chicago American Giants were a Negro League team that wanted Biddle to come try out. Barely able to get the money needed to go to Chicago, Biddle finally arrived and was signed to his first professional contract. The summer of 1953 was Biddle’s first taste of professional baseball. While the Major Leagues today may be glamorous, the Negro Leagues in 1953 were the exact opposite. Sleeping in humid, hot buses filled with exhausted, sweaty players was not a life to be desired by the masses. Still, Biddle persisted and connected with his teammates, chief among them being Sherwood Brewer, someone who would play an integral role in his life for many years to come.

After two years of perseverance through the suboptimal conditions of the Negro Leagues, Biddle signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs. What Biddle had not realized was that on his way to the Major Leagues, he had become the youngest player to play in the Negro Leagues, at age 17. While his time with the Cubs did not go as planned due to his ankle injury, Biddle went back to school and started a new life. He worked as a social worker for many years in Milwaukee, WI until one event changed his life.

In the 1990s, the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City brought all living former Negro Leaguers able to make the trip into Kansas City for a reunion. At the reunion, it was announced that all former players would be receiving healthcare and insurance. What had not been said is that it only covered certain players, primarily those before Jackie Robinson began integration in the Majors. Dennis Biddle knew that needed to change, sparking him to found Negro League Baseball Players, LLC along with friend and fellow former Negro Leaguer Sherwood Brewer. The goal was to create insurance and healthcare for all former Negro League players that had been neglected for so many years.

He fought hard to provide those with the necessary means, but not without facing adversity. Since then, Dennis Biddle has traveled around the country seeking to raise funds to provide these legends of the past with the rightful insurance and healthcare many need. He also led to the honoring of the Negro Leagues with a Wall of Honor previously at Milwaukee County Stadium, the former home of the Brewers (through 2000). Biddle has been opposed by many including the Museum in Kansas City itself, but has fought for the rights of Negro Leaguers. Some even claim he did not ever play in the Negro Leagues. While he may not be the most famous Negro Leaguer, Dennis Biddle has had much influence over the years, in addition to being the youngest player in the history of Negro League Baseball.

To learn more about Yesterday’s Negro League Baseball Player’s, LLC visit https://ynlbptravelingexhibit.site123.me/ or email Dennis Biddle himself at biddledennis@yahoo.com.

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