Sunday’s “Jim Crow Strikes Out” softball game was a fantastic display of community unity in recognition of the historical 1925 exhibition between the KKK and all-Black Wichita Monrovians. The collaboration between Wichita’s Urban Professionals and the Public Library brought a diverse group of Wichitans together for an evening of food, fun, and fellowship at McAdams Park.
Instead of Black versus White, this exhibition game pitted the Red Team, lead by Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple against the Blue Team, lead by Wichita Vice-Mayor Brandon Johnson. Both teams were loaded with Wichita community members including Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay. The Blue Team would take home the 6-3 victory in a game with a ton of defensive highlights.
Some of the players on the winning Blue Team included Antonio Ranking III, Chris Key, The Blue Team was coached by Taishma Council.
Some of the players on the red team included Chief Ramsay, Christyn Breathett Gunter, Tracey Mason, and going against her husband Danielle Johnson, The Red Team was coached by Tijuana Mamarazzi Hardwell.
Vella’s Exotic Egg Rolls truck, specializing in zany and inventive egg roll creations, set up outside McAdams baseball field. DJ Win announced the game with music from Dj Bearfoot, which helped liven up the event and provided a soundtrack to the game.
“It was a good way to learn about the significance of the Monrovian game to Wichita and to get to know people on a personal level, where I don’t think any titles or anything mattered. At that point, it just felt a lot more like we’re just playing baseball, talking smack, and having fun,” said Mayor Whipple.
On June 21, 1925, twenty years before Jackie Robinson broke the MLB color barrier, the Wichita Monrovians played an exhibition game against Wichita Klan Number 6 at Island Park on Ackerman Island, which at the time was located in the middle of the Arkansas River near downtown Wichita. According to reports, the Klan was searching for some favorable publicity in a state becoming increasingly anti-Klan. The Monrovians went on to win the exhibition game, 10-8.
The Monrovians’ success helped them gain popularity within Wichita’s Black population. But it wasn’t simply their talent that drew spectators to their games. The Monrovians were also a source of financial assistance for African Americans, frequently donating proceeds from their games to charitable organizations such as the Phyllis Wheatley Children’s Home.
At the game, The Kansas African American Museum displayed their traveling exhibit “Time at Bat: Negro League Baseball in Wichita.” which chronicles the Negro baseball player experience in Wichita from the late 1800s to the 1950s. The free-standing exhibit features images, biographical essays, rare artifacts, and other fascinating details to display a realistic picture of the direct impact that Wichita’s Negro Leagues had on Major League Baseball and the people in Wichita today.
“The game allowed people who are not normally interacting with the chief of police, and the City of Wichita mayor and even Councilman Johnson an opportunity to do so , and we were grateful to have the community there. I hope that when we have future opportunities, even more of the community gets to come out and experience such a historical moment,” said Red Team Coach Hardwell.