Every week we lose.
All of us lose.
Every week it seems like we lose a piece of baseball history – of American history.
We lose their stories, their fondest memories of baseball, friendships, all during a terrible time in the story of America.
With increasing frequency we are losing the players that for the most part helped build the big leagues without playing in the big leagues.
There were those like Banks, Minoso and Paige who did see their dreams come true and their stories are better told than others because of it. But for the vast majority of Negro Leagues players – their stories are told and housed in Kansas City.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was created for the very purpose of preserving those stories and memories along with telling the story of some of the greatest players in baseball history.
As the number of surviving Negro Leagues players continue to dwindle – it is all of our responsibility to spread the knowledge of those players who came before.
A host of people including the legendary Buck O’Neil, NLBM President Bob Kendrick and Vice President Raymond Doswell as well a dedicated group of board members and supporters have done a remarkable job but there is still more to do.
I am calling on Major League Baseball and it’s clubs to lend a larger hand. Jackie Robinson Day is great and well deserved to honor the player who overcame and broke the games color barrier but “Remembering The Negro Leagues” should be a tent pole event for every Major League team. Part of new Commissioner Rob Manfred’s agenda along with reaching out to younger fans with digital media and faster games should also be the teaching of this great games history.
I am also calling on all baseball fans no matter who you support to visit the museum. To share the stories from within with children and young ones who need to know the past to appreciate the future of America’s past time.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a standing and growing monument to baseball, America – it’s past and future.
This year we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the NLBM – no better time for all of us to step up our games.
To visit the museum and for more information check out the website and continue to read us here at Monarchs to Grays to Crawfords.
Dave Barr (@daveabarr)
I’m having flashbacks today and they are not good.
It seems just a short few Sunday’s ago I was writing about a baseball and Negro leagues legend in Ernie Banks passing away.
This morning another Windy City icon left us as Minnie Minoso died at the age of 90.
The first Black player for the White Sox, opened the door in Major League Baseball for Hispanic players who would make the transition from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and other baseball loving southern hemisphere countries to Canada and the United States.
Unbelievably, Minoso was denied his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame a few months ago when he did not receive the required amount of votes by the Veterans Committee.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf once said this of Minoso: “I always thought I was looking at a Hall of Fame player. He did everything. He could run, he could hit with power, he could field, he could bunt, he could steal bases. He did everything. He was a complete player. He was one of the most exciting players I’ve ever seen play, in the mold of a Jackie Robinson.”
Minoso will always be a Hall of Famer in our minds and in our hearts.
Below is a story from a short time ago on Mr. White Sox.
So much was made – and rightly so this past season about the impact of young, exciting players from Cuba.
Today, on his birthday – we celebrate the man who opened the door for players like Yasil Puig and Jose Abreu – Minnie Minoso.
Born Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso Arrieta in Perico, Cuba – the Cuban Comet began his professional baseball career in the Negro Leagues appropriately with the New York Cubans where he quickly became an All Star at third base. In his first year for the Cubans, Minoso hit .309 and followed that up in 1946 helping New York win the Negro National League pennant and capture the World Series from the Negro American League’s Cleveland Buckeyes.
Minoso’s Negro Leagues career lasted only three seasons (he was an All Star in 1947 and 1948) as in 1949 he made the move to the Major Leagues as the color barrier was slowly falling and joined Larry Doby on the Cleveland Indians roster.
Every move to the big leagues from the Negro leagues is historic even after Jackie Robinson signed with the Dodgers. Minoso’s move was not only historic because of the color of his skin but also because he became the first Black Cuban player to play Major League Baseball. Later in 1951, Minnie was traded to the Chicago White Sox becoming their first player of color. He “quickly” led the Sox in stolen bases his first three seasons.
Between his Negro Leagues, Major and Minor League baseball career and an almost decade long time in Mexico, Minoso played in five different decades making his last appearance for the Pal Hose in 1980. Thew only player in baseball history to do so. Chicago retired his #9 in 1983.
Inexplicably, Minoso is not in the Hall of Fame after a career that saw him make nine All Star games, win three Gold Gloves and hit .298 during a career which saw crowds chant Go! Go! when he wheeled around the bases.
Minoso like Robinson, will be most remembered as a player who brought a new never before seen form of entertaining baseball to stadiums across the country and someone who influences the game even today by opening the door to the baseball crazed country of Cuba.
Happy birthday Minnie!
Dave Barr (@daveabarr)
As we celebrate President’s Day – we take a look at a few Negro Leagues baseball players who were “presidential” on the field and in name.
Frank Grant (Second baseman / Shortstop)
Grant was a great hitting middle infielder who starred in the overwhelmingly White International League. The Massachusetts native was an African-American baseball pioneer before Jackie Robinson – playing in the Minor Leagues before Jim Crow laws were in existence. Grant starred in the early years of Negro Leagues baseball particularly for the Cuban Giants and was considered the best African-American baseball player of the 19th century. In 2006, Grant was elected into baseball’s hall of fame. Making Grant a lock for this team is the fact that his first name is Ulysses.
Arthur Hamilton (Catcher)
Hamilton played for the Indianapolis Clowns and Detroit Stars from 1953-59.
Judy Johnson (Third baseman)
One the greatest third baseman in Negro Leagues history. Johnson was thye sixth African-American player elected in to Cooperstown in 1975 after a playing career that saw him wear the uniform of the Hillsdale, Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords.
Bill Monroe (Third baseman)
Monroe was the first real showman of Negro Leagues baseball. From catching pop flies behind his back to everything in between – Monroe was a true entertainer. Somehow throughout his entire baseball career, every team that Monroe played for was nicknamed the Giants (Cuban X-Giants, Philadelphia Giants, Brooklyn Royal Giants and Chicago American Giants. The offensively gifted Monroe was one of 94 Negro League players up for election in to the hall of fame in 2006 but unfortunately he did not make the cut.
William Pope (Pitcher)
Pope enjoyed a four-year career in the Negro Leagues pitching for the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords.
Candy Jim Taylor (Player / Manager)
During his 44-year baseball career – Taylor either played or managed a whopping 30 teams including the St. Louis Stars to their first championship in 1928 and the first two World Series pennants for the Homestead Grays in 1943 and 1944.
William Van Buren (Pitcher)
You can’t have a Presidential list without a Van Buren and William was a pitcher for the Kansas City Monarchs for one year in 1953.
Jud Wilson (First baseman)
Wilson was one of the great power hitters in Negro Leagues baseball. His lifetime .351 batting average (fifth all-time in NLB history) helped him be enshrined in the baseball hall of fame in 2006.Many Negro Leagues icons like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson say that “Babe Ruth” Wilson was the greatest hitter in baseball.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) today announced the 2015 class of inductees into its Hall of Game. The announcement was made on the historic 95th anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues in Kansas City, Mo., by Andrew “Rube” Foster.
Established by the NLBM in 2014, the Hall of Game annually honors former Major League Baseball (MLB) players who competed with the same passion, determination, flair and skill exhibited by the heroes of the Negro Leagues. This year’s class includes stolen-base king Rickey Henderson, Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins, three-time All-Star Luis Tiant Jr. and defensive “wizard” Ozzie Smith. The four MLB greats will be inducted in ceremonies at the Gem Theater (1615 E. 18th Street, KC, Mo.) at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 25, and Hy-Vee, Inc., for the second consecutive year, will be the presenting sponsor.
The exciting 2015 inductees follow on the heels of last year’s inaugural class that featured Lou Brock, Joe Morgan, Dave Winfield and the late Roberto Clemente. In addition to the ceremony, Hall of Game inductees will also receive permanent recognition as part of the future Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center being developed by the NLBM at the site of the Paseo YMCA, the birthplace of the Negro Leagues.
“We’re thrilled with the Hall of Game selections this year,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the NLBM “These four men played with spirit and passion and truly captivated audiences. They displayed the same heart and soul of the men who made the Negro Leagues so special.”
Appropriately leading off this year’s Hall of Game class is legendary speedster Rickey Henderson, whose MLB record for career stolen bases may never be matched. During the course of his 25-year career, he swiped 1,406 total bases, nearly doubling the second place total of 938 held by fellow Hall of Gamer Lou Brock. Widely regarded as the game’s best leadoff hitter and base runner ever to play, Henderson was named to 10 All-Star games, earned the 1990 AL MVP Award and still owns the Major League record for career runs and leadoff home runs. He is the only AL player to steal 100 or more bases in a season—a feat he accomplished three times—and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.
Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins was arguably the best pitcher in baseball at the height of his career during the late 1960s and early 70s. Over the course of his 19-year, four-team career, he won 20 or more games in seven seasons—six of those consecutively as a member of the Chicago Cubs—and threw 239 complete games. He was named to three NL All-Star rosters, awarded the 1971 NL Cy Young Award and, in 1991, became the first Canadian to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He led the league in wins twice, fewest walks per nine innings five times and complete games nine times. Since retiring, he has been recognized by two of his former teams with post-career honors being inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame in 2004 and having his No. 31 jersey retired by the Cubs in 2009.
During the 1976 and 1977 seasons, Jenkins roomed with another outstanding pitcher as a member of the Boston Red Sox: fellow Hall of Game inductee, Luis Tiant Jr. Also a multi-season 20-game winner, Tiant was a three-time AL All-Star who twice recorded a season ERA below 2.0 (1968, 1972). His 1968 season ERA of 1.60 set an MLB record that stood until 1972 and a Red Sox franchise record that still stands today. In the 1975 World Series, Tiant started an incredible three games, one of which was a five-hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds. His father, Luis Sr., was a two-time Negro Leagues All-Star who, in 1947, helped the New York Cubans to a World Series title.
Completing the list of inductees is the “Wizard of Oz,” Ozzie Smith, who dazzled fans with his defensive magic at shortstop for 19 Major League seasons. A 15-time All-Star, Smith was awarded 13 consecutive Gold Gloves—two as a member of the San Diego Padres and 11 with the St. Louis Cardinals—and set Major League records for career assists (8,375) and double plays by a shortstop (1,590) as well as an NL record for games played in the position (2,511). Also talented on offense, Smith won the NL Silver Slugger Award as the best-hitting shortstop in 1987 and notched 580 stolen bases in his career. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot (2002) and to the Cardinals Hall of Fame in its inaugural class in 2014.
“These men produced some of the most significant moments in baseball history,” said Kendrick, who has served as president of the NLBM since 2011. “Buck O’Neill once said of the Negro Leagues that fans couldn’t go to the concession stands because they were afraid they’d miss something they’d never seen before. That’s exactly the kind of sentiment fans felt about watching guys like Rickey Henderson, Fergie Jenkins, Luis Tiant and Ozzie Smith. They embody that same spirit, and we are delighted to welcome them into our Hall of Game.”
In addition to the Hall of Game inductions, the NLBM also will be presenting the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award for “career excellence in the face of adversity” to Wendy Lewis, the Senior Vice President of Diversity and Strategic Alliances for MLB and a longtime supporter of the NLBM. Since leaving her job at the Chicago Tribune to establish a human resources department for the Chicago Cubs in the mid-1980s, Lewis has defied the odds and ascended to her top-level MLB position, becoming the highest-ranking African-American woman within the league. She now works to implement MLB’s diversity initiatives and has direct management responsibility over the League’s Executive Development Program and the Diverse Business Partners Program, the premier supplier diversity program in sports.
“What Wendy Lewis has done for securing diversity in Major League Baseball is phenomenal,” Kendrick said of Lewis, who has represented the League at the award’s presentation many times throughout her career. “Her work has helped ensure that Jackie Robinson’s life and courageous actions so long ago will never be forgotten. We’re thrilled to honor her with this award.”
The establishment of the Hall of Game and its annual celebration event holds two purposes: 1) to provide an avenue for the NLBM to continue garnering attention for one of the greatest stories in American history in conjunction with the date synonymous with the integration of baseball, and 2) to serve as a significant fundraiser to increase the NLBM’s ability to stay relevant with technology and community programming, and to complete the Buck O’Neil Education Center. A committee of the city’s most prominent business and civic leaders has been established to create awareness of and sponsorship for this exclusive event, with Bob Page, President and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Kansas Hospital, serving as chair.
“It’s an honor to serve in this role and to have the chance to team up with the NLBM,” said Page, now in his second year as committee chair. “The museum is more than just an important part of our city; it’s an important part of our country’s history. And with the inception of the Hall of Game, we have the opportunity to keep the spirit of the Negro Leagues alive and to celebrate it through the achievements of those who took center stage after baseball’s integration.”
The April 25th induction event will include a full day of activities including a press conference, VIP meet-and-greet, reception and dinner at the NLBM followed by the Hall of Game ceremonies at the Gem Theater. And, after producing the inaugural event in 2014, Kansas City-based sports agency Premier Sports Management will once again handle event production.
Okay – I know that MLB Network has done this in years past including this off season but I thought it would be fun for readers and fans to select the Face of the Negro Leagues too.
In the upcoming weeks – we will post on Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick’s twitter feed a match-up for you to vote on.
There are going to be some tough decisions.
Will it be Josh Gibson? Satchel Paige? Jackie Robinson? The beloved Buck O’Neil?
Michelle and I send our condolences to the family of Ernie Banks, and to every Chicagoan and baseball fan who loved him.
Ernie came up through the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day. He became the first African-American to play for the Chicago Cubs, and the first number the team retired. Along the way, he became known as much for his 512 home runs and back-to-back National League MVPs as for his cheer, his optimism, and his love of the game. As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago. He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team’s behind him, and Mr. Class – “Mr. Cub” – is ready to play two.
The baseball world received the heartbreaking news late on Friday evening.
Baseball hall of fame member, Presidential Medal of freedom winner, former Kansas City Monarch and Chicago Cub – the great Ernie Banks passed away at the age of 83.
Banks holds a very special place in all of our hearts whether you were a Cubs fan or not.
If you had to designate two former players who are largely responsible for the great work that is done at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum it would hands down be Buck O’Neil and Ernie Banks.
The two of them were kindred spirits and when together in a room displayed enough energy from their spirits and smiles to power city blocks forever. Mr. Sunshine (along with Mr. Cub) was a very appropriate nickname for Banks.
They will be linked together in memories and stories as well as baseball lore as it is O’Neil who is credited with signing Banks to be a Cub when Buck worked as a scout for Chicago.
That’s just how they were. No two people were ever better ambassadors for baseball, the Negro Leagues and humanity as a whole than Buck and Ernie.
I had the honor of chatting with Ernie on two occasions – both were he left right at home – the ballpark.
On both instances it was like we were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while. With a handshake and a smile we caught up and talked baseball. He made everyone – whether it was your first time talking to a legend or were a dear friend – like he knew you his entire life. That’s how Banks lived his life and why the world is a far worse place this morning without him.
Below is a statement released by Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick.
Statement from the NLBM on the passing of Ernie Banks:
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) joins the baseball world in mourning the death of Ernie Banks. The man affectionately known as “Mr. Cub,” left his mark on the sport as one of the game’s greatest players and personalities. The former Kansas City Monarch’s amazing Hall of Fame career brought joy to fans worldwide and gave even greater credence to the remarkable talent that played in the Negro Leagues. His infectious smile, wit and charm will be missed but his legacy will live on forever. The staff and board of directors of the NLBM extend our deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to his wife, Liz, and the entire Banks family.
Bob Kendrick, President
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Dave Barr (@daveabarr)
Ever wonder how much it costed for fans to see Negro Leagues Baseball?
Thanks to recent finds by collector Jim Stinson – we get an inside look at the books.
Dave Barr (@daveabarr)
As we celebrate the legend and lasting legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on this national holiday – we are reminded that all history in our country isn’t good history.
A glaring example of this was the inhuman treatment of African-Americans during the civil rights movement.
The United States was segregated at every level especially in the south and in professional sports.
The integration of baseball by Jackie Robinson started a movement of equality way before Dr. King began organizing marches.
But as you can imagine and have read- some were very much against change.
In a letter written by former New York Yankees executive Larry McPhail – which was recently acquired by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at a Leland’s auction – the Bronx Bombers had no plans of signing an African-American ball player. The letter was written two-years before Robinson donned the Dodgers blue and changed the lives of thousands.
“We typically don’t go buy pieces for the museum, ” Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick said. “But this is a piece of baseball history that I wanted in the museum for people to see. Throughout the museum you see story after story of those who overcame the obstacles put in front of them by both society and Major League Baseball. This letter is a great example of THE OBSTACLE.”
The really interesting part of the letter to me isn’t that it was written. We all know that the stance taken by McPhail was not only his own but was shared by many around Major League Baseball.
The letter was written in response to New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. LaGuardia had formed a committee, the purpose of which was to study segregation in baseball and, ultimately, pressure the New York teams to sign black players.
Why was LaGuardia so interested? That’s the curious part to me.
African-Americans couldn’t vote – we were a couple of decades away from that. So politically how would this have benefited him?
The country and world were about to come out of World War II and heroic veterans of all colors were coming home and civil rights groups began to organize. In 1945, the New York state lawmakers passed an bill that banned discrimination. Maybe LaGuardia saw the future and was trying to get in front. We may never know.
As you read through the letter – there are some really intriguing things.
“The opinions of McPhail and other executives was why Jackie Robinson was the perfect choice to break the color-barrier,” Kendrick said. “He not only had to excel on the field but he had to prove those opinions about the abilities of all black ballplayers wrong.”
The other revealing thing in the letter is how much money the Yankees made from the Negro Leagues. That’s right, the Yankees made A LOT of money from Negro Leagues teams playing in stadiums owned by the New York franchise.
“Negro Leagues teams played in stadiums owned by the Yankees across the United States,” Kendrick said after spending the day celebrating the birthday of our countries greatest civil rights leader in Dallas. “From Kansas City to Newark and New York, the Yankees made over $300,000 each year as the Monarchs and others used their minor league stadiums and Yankees Stadium to play games so there was a financial aspect that went into the thinking by the New York team to keep baseball segregated.”
The letter appears in its entirety below.
You’ll be able to see the letter in person at the Negro Leagues baseball Museum in the very near future.
Dave Barr (@daveabarr)
Cooperstown came calling this week for Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.
Unfortunately we may never see another Negro Leagues player get tabbed with the honor of being selected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
“I think we’ve seen the last,” Negro Leagues President Bob Kendrick said. “The Veterans Committee had a chance to do the right thing and bring Minnie Minoso in a couple of weeks ago but did not.”
Baseball’s greatest honor has eluded great players through the decades whether it has been Major League Baseball or the Negro Leagues – an argument can be made for many through the ages.
There were 18 players from the Negro Leagues inducted into Cooperstown:
Cool Papa Bell
John Henry Lloyd
Smokey Joe Williams
Until 2006, when a special committee on African-American baseball voted on a ballot that contained the names of 39 great players, managers and executives. Of those, 17 more were elected including:
So, with the help of Kendrick and a piece of paper that Buck O’Neil used to carry around in his pocket of great Negro Leagues players who belong in Cooperstown – here are some players/ contributors who should be in the Hall of Fame.
We all believe that Buck should be in and in 2006 thought it was a done deal. Unfortunately it was not. While his career numbers may not knock you out of your chair there is no doubt that baseball has never had a better ambassador than O’Neil. Many of the names above were elected in part because of the campaigning of O’Neil. The main force behind the creation of the Negro leagues Baseball Museum however came up short.
“God’s been good to me. They didn’t think Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. That’s the way they thought about it and that’s the way it is, so we’re going to live with that. Now, if I’m a Hall of Famer for you, that’s all right with me. Just keep loving old Buck. Don’t weep for Buck. No, man, be happy, be thankful.”
Gus Greenlee was an innovator who did not stand for the baseball “status quo”.
In 1933 Greenlee founded the annual East-West Classic, an all-star baseball game in Chicago between Negro League stars. That same year he was the primary founder of the second Negro National League, which he served as president for five seasons.
For a while the Crawfords were the best-financed team in black baseball. Revenue generated from his gambling and bootlegging operations allowed Greenlee to sign black baseball’s biggest names. The 1935 squad may be the best ever to play in the Negro Leagues, as it fielded five Hall of Fame players. Money also enabled Greenlee to build his own ballpark. When he bought the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1930. In 1932 he opened Greenlee Field, the first black-owned and black-built baseball park in America.
Greenlee was a philanthropist who helped African -Americans with loans, scholarships and the means to purchase their own homes.
Where do we begin describing the greatest pitcher of his era.
Over 400 confirmed wins in his 30-year career.
Pitched 13 no-hitters during that time.
Over 4,400 confirmed strike outs in his career.
There are no shortage of words that come to mind when describing Donaldson. Both Buck O’Neil and Major League baseball and Hall of Fame Giants manager John McGraw both said he was the best that they ever saw.
Satchel Paige accredited Donaldson as a huge influence on his pitching career.
The southpaw from Galsgow, Missouri had many fans around the country whether it was playing independent ball in Minnesota, barnstorming through rural America or playing in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs (a nickname he has been credited with originating).
Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe
Jackie Robinson’s roommate in 1945 with the Kansas City Monarchs, Radcliffe could do it all.
His career spanned three decades beginning with the Detroit Stars in 1928 and ending as a manager with the Chicago American Giants in 1943.
Radcliffe was handed the nickname “Double Duty” by Damon Runyon as Radcliffe caught and pitched in both games of a 1932 Negro Leagues World Series doubleheader between the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Kansas City Monarchs. Radcliffe caught Satchel Paige’s shutout in game 1 and threw one himself in the night cap.
Double Duty, who some claim to be the best player in baseball history also played in six Eat-West All Star games pitching in three and catching in three.
In the discussion as the greatest shortstop in Negro Leagues history and one of the best ever – Lundy was among 39-players considered for entry into Cooperstown in 2006.
A career .305 hitter, Lundy was a mainstay of the famed “million dollar infield”, along with Oliver Marcell, Frank Warfield and Jud Wilson for the Baltimore Black Sox in 1929.
For a 20-year period of time in baseball history (1920-1940) there was no better second baseman in all of baseball than Newt Allen.
The longtime Kansas City Monarch player / manager could do it all. A slick fielding infielder who could turn games with not only his glove but his ability to bunt for hits and steal bases, Allen was a managers dream.
He would know as he took over the managerial duties for the Monarchs in 1941 as Andy Cooper suffered a stroke and Allen led Kansas City to the Negro American League championship. After the season he resigned and returned to his role in the infield.
Allen owned a .293 carer batting average and like Lundy was on the 2006 list considered for enshrinement.
Dave Barr (@daveabarr)