Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
I finally got around to visiting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum this past weekend, and it only took me about three months of living here – for shame!
It’s quite a place: through a plethora of news articles, photographs, uniforms, memorabilia, statues and interactive exhibits, the museum chronicles the simultaneous progression of Black history, Black baseball and the Major (formerly White) Leagues.
The exhibits are laid out around a scaled down “Field of Dreams”, visitors free to wander and examine bronze statues of heralded players at each position (Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, et al). I was surprised how the designers succeeded in combining the dark, solemnity standard in museums with an old weathered-fence sandlot atmosphere.
For a nice hour or so, the NLBM offers a wonderful crash course on the Negro Leagues, although it’s far from canonical. The museum could easily be twice as large, with three times the content, and so it should. I certainly wasn’t disappointed, but I’d certainly love to see more.
Kansas City’s own Dalai Lama, Buck O’Neil (who passed away earlier this month), was a tireless champion and promoter for the museum. Up to his death he was working to help transform an historic YMCA building into a learning center and annex for the museum (now officially the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center). This project, while under way, is in its early stages.
If you’re ever feeling generous, consider sending a donation to the museum (view their official site, www.nlbm.com, to learn how). Even better, make a pilgrimage to Kansas City and visit the museum (and know that this is NOT, as they emphatically state, a Negro Baseball Hall of Fame). It has so much to teach about an important and fascinating foundation to our great, national pastime.
And my two favorite facts learned over the weekend?
1. Cool Papa Bell once stole 2 bases on a single pitch (well, this is a legend, but still...)
2. Cap Anson was an asshole (this one is true)