Washington (CNN) – They were a generation of African-American players barred from competing in big league baseball because of the color of their skin.
But on Monday, players and owners from the Negro League met with President Barack Obama at the White House – a reflection, they said, of the important place the league holds in American history.
"It serves as a reminder of the impact the Negro League had on baseball," Pedro Sierra, who played for the Indianapolis Clowns and the Detroit Stars, told reporters after the group's meeting with Obama.
Minnie Forbes, the only living female owner of a Negro League team, said the White House event stood in stark contrast to the conditions teams were subject to in the 1940s and 50s.
"It's just wonderful the see the president, and to know that where we came from – we weren't able to travel and to sleep in hotels and to eat in restaurants – and now we're able to come to the White House and see the president," said Forbes, who owned the Detroit Stars.
The meeting came the same day New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez was suspended by Major League Baseball after an investigation into the use of performance enhancing drugs.
The league suspended Rodriguez for 211 regular-season games through the 2014 season, but the 38-year-old slugger said he planned to appeal.
Twelve other players have accepted 50-game suspensions without pay.
"It's kind of tough," Sierra said when asked about “A-Rod,” who he added was not a topic of discussion at the meeting with Obama.
"It's a big change in thinking and mentality of the quote, unquote 'modern player,'" Sierra continued. "I learned this when I was growing up back in Cuba, and it was the notion I had when I was in the Negro League. Respect the managers, respect the players, the fans, but more than all, respect the game. That's something that I carry."
"I never wanted to do anything that would embarrass my family or the game," he said. "And unfortunately that's not happened. And I just hope that the younger generation of baseball will think about a better way to approach the game."
CNN White House Producer Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.