Major League Baseball celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League by joining with the Major League Baseball Players Association to announce their second joint $1 million donation to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
“It commemorates baseball history, and it’s a tribute to African-American entrepreneurship in the culture that existed at the time,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Feb. 13.
The privately financed museum was founded in 1990 and moved into its current facility in 1994, at 1616 E. 18th St., KCMO. The Negro National League, the first Negro major league, was founded by eight entrepreneurs at the Paseo YMCA, at Paseo and 19th Street.
Part of the donation will be used to help renovate the YMCA building that will house the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center. The museum had spent more than $100,000 on the renovation when the building was damaged in 2018, when a vandal cut a water line.
“Unfortunately, someone vandalized the building, derailing a lot of work that had gone on in this building,” said Bob Kendrick, the museum’s executive director. “It was important for us to come back into this space. We didn’t want the haters to have the last laugh.”
Negro Leagues operated from 1920 through 1951, four years after Jackie Robinson broke the MLB color barrier.
“It’s not just about the money,” Manfred said. “A number of our teams are playing special tribute throughout the year. There will be features on all our platforms about the Negro Leagues. Maybe most important is the educational effort that is going to take place in our youth programs.”
The event kicked off a yearlong celebration called “A Game-Changing Century.” All big league teams will wear a patch honoring the history of the Negro Leagues on June 27.
The Kansas City Royals will pay tribute May 17 during the annual Salute to the Negro Leagues Game.
The first 10,000 fans through the gates will receive Jackie Robinson Monarchs T-Shirts. Attendees are also encouraged to “dress to the nines” in the same fashion fans would go to baseball games after church in the Negro Leagues’ heyday.
As part of the Royals’ commemoration, game-worn jerseys and hats will be auctioned off at royals.com/auction. The proceeds from the auction will benefit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
The Royals also plan to recognize Negro Leagues alumni at the game.
“The history of the Negro Leagues is bigger than baseball,” new Kansas City Royals owner John Sherman said. “When I walk through the museum I think of the courage of those people. Their story of resiliency is about change that still hasn’t reached the finish line.”
Frank White, an eight-time Gold Glove winner who played for the Royals from 1973-90, grew up in the neighborhood and joined the YMCA in that building. He learned from players who started in the Negro Leagues, such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Satchel Paige, Monte Irvin and Don Newcombe.
“I can’t tell you how many basketball games I played here,” said White, now the executive of Jackson County in Missouri. “It’s neat to see this building, and this area, coming back.”