Sunday, August 16, 2020

Negro League Baseball Museum

Reprinted from 6 years ago, when I finally had my long-awaited visit.  With the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues being celebrated, I thought I would bring this back.  I've had a few posts on the subject over the years, and I may put all of them up.

I visited the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City. My fear was that the only patrons would be buses of schoolchildren from black neighborhoods, and old white guys.

It was worse than that. I was the only one there. When I told the young woman selling tickets that coming to the museum was a goal of more than a decade, a man behind her in the gift shop looked over and came around to the front. We chatted a bit - he was a dapper black man slightly older than I who said... he was off to a meeting and couldn't stay but did exchange a few words with me in front of the ticket booth. He was clearly knowledgeable and I felt encouraged that there might be more kindred spirits about.

As he left he said he was Bob Kendrick, president of the board - and he was the last person I saw. Along about the Rube Foster exhibit I teared up over it all. One can't make people like things, and desert is not a measure of personality, and it is sad that this is always going to be an enterprise held afloat by outside help for symbolic reasons, rather than for its considerable intrinsic merit.

When I wandered among the statues- a mock field with a player standing at each position - an eerily live creature among bronzes of dead heroes, I wanted so badly to be able to discuss with someone why they had made the choices they had*. So few care, and it will all be preserved entirely as a politically correct Good Idea, something that people feel the should like, even though they don't.

It's worth it on it's own merit. One could teach the history of race relations 1860-1960 with this as the framework. And it's got both stories and statistics, as baseball always does.

Hilton Smith, a personal favorite of mine.

*John Henry "Pops" Lloyd at 2B, a position he did not play.  He was a SS whose arm weakened late in his career, and he moved to 1B. I imagine he was moved off short because neither of two third basemen, Ray Dandridge and Judy Johnson, could be left out. Similarly, Cool Papa Bell was in left because Oscar Charleston was in center. Martin DiHigo was the batter, likely because he played everywhere, removing any number of arguments at other positions. But there is controversy because some authorities consider him generally overrated, not in the top 15 overall. Glad I got to say all that.


Sam L. said...

I did not know it was there. I know the WWI memorial is there, and is considered quite good. Unfortunately, not when I was there many years ago.

Ah, Ft. Wood; my b-i-l referred to it as Little Korea many years ago.

Mark Stoler said...

Visited it this summer while on a major league ballpark tour. Wonderful museum. It wasn't crowded when I was there but did have 15-20 other customers. I agree that it is very well done and instructive on race relations. Plus a lot of fun.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"Fort Lost-in-the-Woods" is a common nickname. Deserved. Trip Advisor rates Cracker Barrel as the 5th-best restaurant of 23 in the area. And that might be true.

Mark, your comment comforts me.

Anonymous said...

Baseball became much easier to understand with Ace of Diamond. And the other one I forgot.