Thursday, September 03, 2009

Picture Tour Of The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

41 Former Negro League Veterans and Architects of the game have been enshrined in The National Baseball Hall of Fame.

From 1947--when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball and carrying through 1953--every single National League Rookie of The Year (except 1948) featured a former Negro League Player. In fact, nine different African-Americans were honored as top National League Rookies through 1959. That's all but four times over a Baker's Dozen Years.

Nine times from 1949 through 1959, 10 National League MVP Awards were awarded to former Negro League stars--Roy Campanella won the award three times, Ernie Banks two.

Don Newcombe, the very first outstanding African-American Pitcher to arrive in The Majors during his prime, not only won the 1949 Rookie Of The Year, but he also garnered the N.L. MVP Award in 1956. The very same year he became the first Former Negro League Player and First African-American to win The Cy Young Award.

Accolades which prove The Negro Baseball Leagues, from those early days of forming the first competitive league in 1920 for African-Americans, were filled with professional baseball talent. Quality competition harnessed by a race of people filled with pride. African-Americans and Hispanics not willing to be pushed aside and considered virtually non-existent by the ugly years of segregation.

And The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is the place to witness, read and educate one's self, first hand, on what The Negro Leagues offered in America--including the ugly side that denied African-Americans their rights to play Major League Baseball only because of the color of their skin. But before My Final Conversation with Bob Kendrick from the NLBM, here is a brief photo essay of what's in store for anyone willing to stop by and visit the Historic Paseo District Of Kansas City where The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum stands proudly near the corner of 18th & Vine.

This is a time travel journey. A look into the past of a different era in The United States Of America. An adventure involving baseball which begins at the NLBM Museum with a special 15 Minute Movie entitled: "They Were All-Stars" narrated by James Earl Jones. A no holds barred presentation about the cold hard truths involving segregation and the triumphs and respect gained by Negro League Baseball Players in the museum's Grand Stand Theatre.

From there it's onto the many displays which move in a large circular pattern--in chronological order--as if walking from Home Plate toward 1st Base and then completely around the base paths before eventually heading back home again. During your trip you can read and experience Black Baseball after The Civil War. The so-called "Gentlemen's Agreement" barring African-American's from playing alongside whites. How in the face of adversity, independent black teams formed and eventually some came together to organize The Negro National League in 1920. The standard bearer which led to the survival of the game in African-American Society. Spirit not lost even despite the difficult times of The Depression. A resurgence that took place beginning in the early 1930's and set Negro League Baseball up to become the third largest African-American Business in America. One dependent on the segregated business environment of the days. The Black Only Diners, Hotels & Restrooms. Some not pretty things that eventually began to change--leading up to Jackie Robinson being signed by The Brooklyn Dodgers and taking the field in a Major League Uniform for the first time in 1947.

Yes, one can witness African-Americans fighting for their country while still struggling for their rights at home; the fun of Satchel Paige; the Power of The African-American Press which chronicled every move; and how deftly many former Negro League players changed over to Major League Uniforms and became stars. It's all right there waiting for you at The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum--including a Locker Room displaying Negro League Uniforms for those enshrined in Cooperstown and a special tribute to Buck O'Neil--the inspiration behind the NLBM--left out of the Hall looking in--three years ago--shortly before he passed away.

Which leaves the very best for last, the centerpiece of The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Set on a mini-baseball diamond, surrounded by all the many displays and standing tall--the "Field Of Legends" Statues. Every three minutes--the stadium lights come on and the ballpark announcer introduces "Your Starting Lineup"-- Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell, Ray Dandridge, Judy Johnson, Oscar Charleston, Leon Day, Pop Lloyd, Martin Dihigo and Buck O'Neil. 11 different Negro League Greats proudly immortalized in bronze, 10 of whom have been inducted into The National Baseball Hall Of Fame. This is a stunning display surrounded by vintage reproduction signage and a wall case filled with Classic Negro League Baseball Jerseys & Caps.

Any visitor is allowed to walk onto the "Field of Legends" and examine these wonderful life size statues to their hearts content. Just a fabulous display and a worthy conclusion to a very educational experience. From there, the exit door opens up into The Museum Gift Shop which features uniforms, pennants, caps, jackets and bobbleheads of Buck O'Neil--among the many different reproduction and classic styled baseball outfits and gifts to take home, wear or remember your visit by.

Tomorrow in the final installment of Negro Leagues Week here on Nats320--Bob Kendrick, The Vice-President of Marketing for The Negro Leagues Museum sat down with me for Our Final Conversation.

All Photos shot at The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum--Copyright Nats320--All Rights Reserved. Courtesy and Usage granted by The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Kansas City, Missouri. No reproduction or usage granted without written permission of Nats320 & The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.


Muddy said...

Terrific article on the negro leagues. The quality is stunning. The tone is very refreshing. Many thanks.

Jay said...

Jeff, what a tour de force!

Do you think they did a good job of telling the Grays in Washington story? Would a visitor see that the Grays were quite successful here in DC?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Jay: Yes, a visitor would be able to gauge the success and failures of The Grays in DC, but as both Bob Kendrick and Dr. Doswell believe and this point will come out more in the final chapter with Mr. Kendrick--there are many more stories to tell and the NLBM needs more space added to make that happen in greater detail. This point will be discussed in great length in a post later today.