Baseball, at its core, is a wonderful game that generations of kids have played in the backyard or in dirt parking lots. For as many Hollywood stories and movies that have helped in the romanticizing of baseball, it certainly gets a lot of hate in sports conversation due to its “lack of excitement” and length of play among other reasons. Hey – there’s a pitch clock now! The love of baseball runs deep for some, though, and the experience of going to a ballgame makes for good plans damn near any night of the week during the season.
History from the Diamond
For a long, long time however, much of the history and legacy of baseball did not include some of the most prolific players, managers, and teams that have played the game at the highest levels. This was in part due to the lack of inclusion and subsequent emergence of the National Negro League which spanned nearly three decades from 1920 to 1948. This, of course, was not the only years of the play for the National Negro League, as many teams/clubs played in segregated leagues dating back to the 1880s.
The list of players and contributors from the ~3,500 or so from the Negro Leagues is star-studded and abundant. Jackie Robinson is undoubtedly the most renown of the bunch due to his elevation and contribution to Major League Baseball by breaking through color barriers and more so bearing the burden of integration of the leagues back in ‘47 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He wasn’t alone in being a star, though.
In 2020, for as wacky as baseball was – a shortened 80 game season and cardboard cutouts in stadiums across the country – Major League Baseball took major steps in mending a long standing wrongdoing by officially declaring the Negro Leagues as Major League Baseball. Once declaring it official, the statistics of players, managers and teams became recognized as official major league stats.
The Thunder Twins
Two absolute stars from their time in the Negro Leagues wound up coming as a pair. Josh Gibson and Walter Fenner “Buck” Leonard were among the best of the best to play during the integrated days of Major League Baseball. Leonard played for a Negro Leagues record 17 years with the same club, the Homestead Grays, outside of Pittsburgh. His teammate, Josh Gibson, had an amazing career although no one truly knows how many home runs he hit in total as stats for many of the Negro Leagues records and divisions are incomplete.
Gibson and Leonard were a force to be reckoned with on the field. Their styles of play and longevity, Gibson a long ball swinger and Leonard a mid-field and gap finding wizard, earned them the nicknames of the “Black Babe Ruth” and the “Black Lou Gehrig” respectively. Although Gibson’s career was cut short due to an untimely death following his 35th birthday, his impact and legacy is cemented as one of baseball’s best long ball hitters. Buck Leonard turned down the invitation to join the Majors due to his age (40) following Robinson’s debut, although he hit .395 and led the Grays to their third Negro World Series in the final year before playing in the Mexican League and ultimately retiring.
Last Bit of Ball
Although neither played for a Major League franchise, their contributions are endless to the game, and now to the record books officially. The pair of sluggers were nicknamed “The Thunder Twins” due to their complementary play styles. Both Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard were enshrined in Cooperstown in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 as the first members who exclusively played in the Negro Leagues.
Fast forward a half century, and there’s still reason to celebrate this accomplishment. So, in order to celebrate the game and the amazing people, past and present, a collaboration as electric as the “Thunder Twins” themselves is ongoing. The point is to bring some awareness to these two Hall of Fame players, and their current foundations, on the cusp of their 50th anniversary of being cast in bronze.
Okay, okay, now to the beer. That was a lot of baseball; and that’s coming from someone who loves baseball. This multi-collaborative beer, Bronze Thunder Twins IPA, initially launched by Harlem Brew South (a southern location of Harlem Brewing Co. located in Leonard’s hometown of Rocky Mount, NC) and Metier Brewing Company in Seattle. Yakima Chief Hops stepped in as a partner as well to supply the Cryo Citra and Talus Hops at a discount if participating in this collab. The beer featured in this article was brewed by Precarious Beer Project, in Williamsburg Virginia.
So, after all that, what exactly is the Bronze Thunder Twins IPA? In short, a really damn good baseball beer. There’s a strong citrus forward hop aroma that bursts from the glass like a ball off of a bat. Okay, last baseball reference, I swear. The beer pours gorgeously amber-orange with a pronounced and fluffy head of foam. It looks stunning in a glass. It would also taste just as good from the can in a koozie at the local ballpark.
The initial sip sends a soft shockwave of bitterness across your palate with hop candy like sweetness that fades into a welcomed dry finish. It’s perfect for baseball at 6.2% ABV. The Cryo Citra and Talus Hops pair well together as the intense citrus notes are kept at bay with a nice bit of pine and grapefruit on the end of the sip. The label, created by Triple Play Design, reinforces the thought of being at a stadium for an ole ball game.
As if Bronze Thunder Twins IPA wasn’t enticing enough yet, the last bit of the collaboration makes it even better. At least $1 from every pint sold will be donated to both the Josh Gibson Foundation and the Buck Leonard Association which serve inner-city kids and promote the game of baseball.
Sources pulled from mlb.com as well as thundertwinsbeer.com