KC Royals: Was Jackie Robinson really a Kansas City Royal?
Today, the KC Royals will take the field at Kauffman Stadium for their “Salute to the Negro Leagues Day” against the Detroit Tigers. What has become an annual tradition ongoing for many years, the Royals will honor the great Kansas City Monarchs in association with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Fans will be encouraged to “Dress to the Nines,” a “Salute” custom since 2013. This includes formal attire consisting of one’s Sunday’s Best, such as suits, ties, fedora hats, and dresses.
The Tigers will wear their 1920 Detroit Stars attire for the match.
And the host KC Royals will wear 1949 Monarchs uniforms for the event:
In addition, there will be a t-shirt giveaway as a promotion to honor Monarch great Jackie Robinson. But did you know Jackie Robinson was a Kansas City Royal?
Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson as the man who broke baseball’s color barrier back in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, what many may not know is that Robinson did spend some time in Kansas City before that.
Yes, Robinson played his one and only season in the Negro Leagues as a member of the 1945 Monarchs. In 47 games, he had a slash line of .375/.449/.600 with a 1.049 OPS, including 25 runs scored and 45 hits. He also hit five home runs and stole 13 bases.
Not too bad, and predictive of what the baseball world would see him become later with Brooklyn.
Robinson was not only a Monarch during that 1945 season, and a member of the 1946 Montreal Royals, the farm club for the Dodgers for whom he hit .349/.468/.426 with a .929 OPS—he was, indeed, also a Kansas City Royal.
How could Robinson be with the KC Royals if he played before the team existed?
Ewing Kauffman formed the current Kansas City franchise in 1968 and it started play in 1969. How, then, could Robinson possibly have played for the Kansas City Royals?
Well, he did. As Matt Rothenberg wrote in his story for the Baseball Hall of Fame, it seems a gentleman named Chet Brewer decided to put together a team for the old California League, where teams made up of African-American players played teams of white players, and Robinson was on Brewer’s Kansas City Royals.
Ironically, the team name “Royals” apparently wasn’t the first one Brewer had in mind when initially organizing the team. Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, told Jeffrey Flanagan, the now retired KC beat writer for mlb.com, that “From what we can tell, Chet Brewer wanted to call his team the Monarchs, too.” However, Kendrick told Flanagan, that wasn’t allowed, leading to using the Royals name:
"“Kansas City has such a tradition of majestic nicknames, from the American Royal, the Kansas City Royals, the Kansas City Monarchs, the Kansas City Kings (NBA).”"
To add to the possible confusion, Robinson went on to play for Montreal’s Royals, his first stop after the Dodgers’ Branch Rickey signed him to the contract that ultimately led to Robinson breaking the major league color line.
So, even if it was for a short time and a half-continent away from Kansas City, Jackie Robinson really was a Kansas City Royal.
Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson was a Montreal Royal and then a Brooklyn Dodger. And also a Kansas City Royal.