Before the Royals existed and the Athletics called Kansas City home, there was another professional team based out of the city. The Kansas City Monarchs were one of the founding teams in the Negro Leagues, and were the longest continually operating franchise. Featuring players such as Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith and Bullet Rogan, the Monarchs were the preeminent franchise, essentially the Negro Leagues version of the Yankees. The Monarchs were also the Negro League home of Jackie Robinson, who later broke the color barrier in the Major Leagues.
That rich history of the Negro League is part of why the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has it’s home in Kansas City. Founded in the early 1990’s, the museum pays tribute to the struggles of those players. Within those halls, there is everything from film exhibits and numerous photographs of the players to the equipment worn by the players, the original headstone from Satchel Paige’s grave and a collection of autographed baseballs of former Negro League players donated by Geddy Lee of Rush.
These days, we tend to take integration for granted. The idea that professional sports or any businesses would exclude someone based on race or ethnicity, especially to those of us that grew up after the 1960’s, is almost entirely foreign. We recognize that such a time existed, but we cannot fathom why.
Here on Martin Luther King Jr Day, it is a time to reflect back on the struggles of the past, and how hard those advocates worked to ensure equality for all. Although a lot of progress has been made since that time, there are still struggles faced by minorities today, even if they are not as overt as they were in the past. Dr. King did more than his part to further this cause, giving his life for something that he ardently believed in.
That is why the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is so important. More than a shrine to the history of baseball, it stands as a reminder of the trials and tribulations those players faced during that time. Taking a trip through the museum is an absolutely unique treat, allowing the visitor to take a step back into time. One can almost smell the grass and hear the sounds of the game unfolding around them.
With fewer and fewer veterans of the Negro Leagues surviving the passing years, it is important to remember this seemingly forgotten chapter of baseball’s history. The next time you find yourself in Kansas City, take a trip down to 18th and Vine to spend some time getting lost in another era of baseball history. It is well worth the trip.
Martin Luther King Jr had a dream. That dream came to pass in major league baseball before it did in society, but integration was not always the case. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a way of remembering that time.
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