Broome was a part of history

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Broome was a part of history


Campus-Community Interactions, Baseball


Commercial News (Danville, Illinois)


14 April 2009

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"They played the game of baseball Because they loved the game, Never did they think that it Would be harder to get into The Baseball Hall of Fame" -- Excerpt from the poem Negro League Black Men by Ernie Westfield Last week, Barbara Broome received letters from people from Connecticut and Colorado for a signature from her husband, former Negro Baseball League player Rochell Broome.

But Rochell Broom will not be able to answer those collectors as he passed away on April 6 from lung cancer.

"Letters come in once in a week and they are collectors who look for signatures from players," Barbara Broome said. "He was always willing to do that for people." Broome was born in Champaign but was raised in Danville. But when his playing career started, he started with the Champaign Eagles in 1956.

"I came up from Knoxville, Tenn. and I didn't really know anyone and our owner, Wardell Jackson, said Rochell was one of the people I should talk to," former teammate Ernie Westfield said. "The big thing we had in common was that we both loved baseball and were friends ever since." Rochell Broome, who was known as The Sweeper, then played for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1957. He was known for his hitting and his style on the field.

"His swing was so sweet, when he missed it carried a good breeze," Westfield said. "He had a swing almost like (Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer) Billy Williams." "He was different because he would have his uniform pressed before every game," friend Terry Townsend said. "He was the cleanest player out there and even when he struck out, he had a certain style to it." His sister, Marie Cunningham, was a young girl when she saw Rochell Broome play but does remember the times the team would play in many places, including Danville.

"We had a split family and my daddy was an umpire and we would always travel and watch Rochell's games," Cunningham said. "He was so tall and he just looked the part of a ball player. I knew he was a great player especially when people talked about him and what he did." After his career ended, Broome went to Roosevelt Law School in Chicago and earned a paralegal certificate. He would go on to work at the University of Illinois in many positions: Assistant varsity baseball coach, director of Community relations, Afro-America Commission and recruiter/counselor with Project Upward Bound. He was also the deputy director pf the Danville Community Action League.

"When he was at Illinois, it was in the late 1960's which was a tough time in our community," Townsend said. "He was a bridge between the U of I and the community and he was a leader.

"When he left, no one fill the spot for 30 years until recently when they hired three people to do his job for community relations and he laid the groundwork for that." Also what must be known is Rochell Broome was a giving person who wanted to help everyone.

"He was a paralegal but he returned home to take car of his mother and grandmother," Barbara Broome said. "Then when my father was having health problems, he helped him as well. He just had such a big heart and was willing to help everyone." "He was one of those guys who seemed to know everyone in town," Cunningham said. "He was a great in conversation and he would talk about everything from sports to politics to just everyday things." He was also a father of four children, grandfather of four and a great-grandfather of one.

"Since I was born after his career, I was able to see pictures and hear stories about his career. He also kept a lot of things about his career private," Rochell Broome's son, Richard Broome said. "He was a great father and he was a great man all around." Rochell Broome was recently inducted into the Negro Hall of Fame in Texas and Westfield, who spoke at Broome's funeral, said he and other Negro League veterans should be recognized more, especially for future generations.

"Recently a bill was passed naming May 20 Negro League Day," Westfield said. "In Danville they should celebrate it because it has a rich history of baseball and parents should tell children about the Negro Leagues.

"(Broome) was part of a movement that included players like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks. I just think more people should know more about it."




"Broome was a part of history," in eBlack Champaign-Urbana, Item #565, http://eblackcu.net/portal/items/show/565 (accessed May 23, 2022).

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