For many of our readers, baseball ended when our beloved Kansas City Royals were mathematically eliminated from the 2013 run to the playoffs. For a few more of our readers, and the diehard baseball fans, baseball ended with the Boston Red Sox defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
For those of us that live for baseball, the best we can do is listen to hot stove shows and start planning for next years fantasy draft. Or is that all we can do? For those of us fortunate enough to live in Kansas City, we have the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Founded in 1990, largely by the vision of Horace Peterson III, the museum offers the nation’s best collection of artifacts from a golden era of baseball that should never be forgotten.
Many may not know that in baseball’s infancy, there were multiple African American athletes playing alongside their white counterparts. However, by the 1900’s black players had been systematically removed from baseball.
However, black players were given an outlet for their talents when in a YMCA in Kansas City, Andrew “Rube” Foster created the Negro Leagues, and for the next 40 years some of the best players to ever don a uniform played on teams comprised of minority players.
Until Jackie Robinson arrived on the Major League scene, breaking the color barrier in 1947, and opening the door for other Negro League players such as Ernie Banks, Larry Doby, and Roy Campanella, baseball fans were denied seeing baseball as it should have been.
Much like African American players, Latin players were not welcome in Major League Baseball. A few Latin players such as Francisco “Pancho” Coimbre , considered by many, the best Puerto Rican player before the arrival of the great Roberto Clemente, played on these teams.
While many know the names of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, “Cool Papa” Bell, there are a litany of players who deserve to be remembered for the brand of baseball they played. Baseball was more than just a game as it helped build and promote many successful black owned businesses that thrived in towns where the Negro Leagues flourished.
No conversation about the Negro Leagues would be complete without mentioning Buck O’Neil, who was, and is, one of the most beloved sports figures in Kansas City. Buck was not only a great ambassador for baseball but was one of the best story tellers and baseball historians any person could ever hope to encounter.
In his book entitled “I Was Right On Time”, Buck absolutely mesmerizes readers with his tales of life as a Negro League player but more importantly, he relays life lessons that go far beyond the symmetrical lines of a baseball field.
While Buck is not in the hall of fame, as many of his peers now are, he should be. Buck was an outstanding player, manager, mentor, and scout. His contribution to the creation and visibility of the Negro League museum is immeasurable.
Shame on Major League Baseball and the selection committee for not including this incredible man as a member. They did name the MLB Lifetime Achievement Award in Buck’s honor but that simply is not enough.
There are far too many players, like Buck, who stories deserve to be told. This is but one reason why a visit to to the NLBM is a must. A visitor will have the opportunity to step back in time and catch a glimpse into a bygone era, and gain a new appreciation for baseball, but more importantly, gain a modicum of understanding into the lives of those trail blazers that helped integrate baseball.
A mention should be given to the current President of the NLBM. Mr. Bob Kendrick is a tireless advocate for the museum and offers some of the best baseball links on twitter. He is a terrific story teller in his own right, delivering an oral history of baseball, as told to him by Buck O’Neil and others. Follow him at negroleaguesmuseum@nlbmprez.
If you are a Kansas Citian with a love of our area, you must visit this gem of an exhibit. It is a wonderful celebration of our city. If you are a casual baseball fan, or a die hard, this special place will give you a new and deepened appreciation for the game.
For more information on tours, history, and hours of operation visit www.nlbm.com. Do yourself a favor and visit this incredible celebration of baseball and learn something about men who truly played for the love of the game. You will not be disappointed.