If you are a sport fan, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a must see for you. It is a reminder of the “separate but equal” culture of the early 20th century that also ruled in the sport world of America. It is interesting and it is something that many of us don’t remember as it ceased to exist in 1950. However, for those thirty years, it was entertainment to many black Americans that did not have much to smile about.
In 1920, a group of men met to talk about the possibility of an organized league for negro baseball players in at the YMCA in downtown Kansas City. It would become the first one of its kind to last more than a season and actually rival the Major League Baseball. They even had a Negro World Series for a few years.
It went on to about 1945 when the signing of Jackie Robinson which was not very popular at the time. The commissioner of MLB at the time, Happy Chandler actually lost his job for standing up to racism in the baseball world.
By the 1950’s, the only thing left of the Negro Leagues was a group called the Indianapolis Clowns that was more a joke than a real baseball team. However, Hank Aaron was a member of it at one time and it helped him get his foot in the door for the majors.
The Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City
In 1990, it became clear to historians, baseball players and a few others that there was a true need to build a museum to save what was left from the era where there was two completely different baseball leagues. It started as a single room on the backside of the Lincoln building in downtown Kansas City.
As the time went by, the museum would grow in several phases. The build out in 1994 was the launching pad to convince the city of Kansas City to re-development the 18th and Vine district that is historically part of black American culture. It was in this same area that the Kansas City barbecue culture was born. At one point, they even had the sitting Vice-President (Al Gore) stop by while they was in the small space in the Lincoln building.
In the late 1990’s, the city finally got behind the project and raised over $20 million dollar to build a museum for the Jazz culture of Kansas City and also to house the Negro Leagues Museum. They opened their space in November 1997 and have been there since.
Today, the list of people that have came through is quite impressive. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson, Maya Angelou, Judith Jamison, Mike Dukakis, Walter Cronkite, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Barry Bonds, Tony Larussa, Isaac Hayes, Ossie Davis, and Sinbad all make the list. Of course, you can add the Last Kodiak staff to the list now.
How to find the museum
It is officially located at 1616 East 18th Street, Kansas City, Missouri. Put that into any GPS system and you should be fine. However, for the rest of us, it is right by 18th and The Paseo. It is just a block away from the Jazz District area. If using the bus system in Kansas City, the #108 Indiana stops right at the front door.
One thing to note is during the summer months, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is colder than a walk in freezer. I assume this to protect some very old items that would harmed with Missouri’s humility. Bringing a sweater is recommended.
The cost is set at $10 currently and it is open until six in the evening every day besides Mondays.