What’s Missing From Baseball

People are always trying to fix things. Nothing it seems is good enough anymore.

The same can be said for baseball -it’s too slow, not exciting enough, doesn’t appeal to young people.

The simple fact is that baseball is about people, history and the numbers.

The other simple fact is that the only thing baseball is missing are fathers and that directly contributes to the dwindling numbers of African-American players in Major League Baseball.

It’s not a problem solely belonging to baseball. It’s a societal problem.

That change has to begin at home.

I have had this conversation with numerous current and former Major League players like Royals great Frank White and Twins outfielder Torii Hunter. No matter who you talk to from whichever era you would like to choose – the common denominator among all of them is that their fathers handed down their love of the game.

I found it interesting watching Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO last week that comedian Chris Rock essentially did a stand up routine talking about the decreasing numbers of African-American players in the big leagues. He gave some really good points and the bottom line was that there weren’t enough fathers in the community handing down the history and stories of America’s Pastime.

You can see the entire segment on YouTube but didn’t want to post it here because of “colorful” language.

There’s something about just going out and playing catch.

My father passed away when I was two-years old.

My mother – who will always be my role model and hero – took on his role and God bless her played catch and took me to games. An Easter basket full of baseball cards and a new Indians or Reds hat was a tradition. Still today she’ll ask me if I watched the game last night. Whether she really likes baseball or she has taken it on because she new it was important to me matters not. She was there and still continues to be with her love of Tommy Lasorda.

This part of my life unfortunately isn’t shared by many in the African-American community.

I’ve been blessed.

There are no easy answers to solve this problem as it is bigger than baseball but effects it nonetheless.

The RBI program in communities is growing and is a great example of people passing on their love of the game. Volunteers make that program flourish as do those fathers who are there supporting their kids and mentoring others. An estimated 230,000 will participate in RBI this year with all 30 MLB teams supporting the program.

Though the numbers of black baseball players in the major leagues is at an all-time low at just over eight percent – they are influential.

Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, the a fore mentioned Hunter in Minnesota lead community projects and are role models kids as are a handful of others.

I wonder what Jackie Robinson would have thought about today’s game and it’s lack of players he fought so hard to give a chance.

Robinson opened a door of possibilities few thought existed. Now the questions is – how do we put our foot in the door and keep it from closing.

Dave Barr (@daveabarr)

Barnstorming to the Windy City – MAY 30-31

Ernie Banks, Bob Tillman

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is barnstorming to Chicago to tip a cap in memory of a baseball legend.

Join the Museum for a historic bus trip to Wrigley Field as they pay tribute to the late, great Ernie Banks when the Kansas City Royals take on the Chicago Cubs.

The two-day barnstorming trip includes: 
Ticket(s) for the Royals vs Cubs at Wrigley Field (1:20 p.m., Sun.,  May 31)
Roundtrip Luxury Bus Transportation from KC to Chicago
Continental breakfast at the NLBM (day of departure)
Room at the Westin Hotel (Itasca, IL)
Private Dinner to watch Royals vs Cubs at the Westin (Saturday, May 30)
Breakfast at the Westin (day of the game)
Private Vending Menu during the game (up to $50)
2 Box Lunches
Commemorative Monarchs shirt & cap
Cost: $550.00 for Single Occupancy Room $450.00 for Double Occupancy Room
For information, disclaimers, and to make reservations you can:
CALL THE NLBM AT 816-221-1920
OR
GO ONLINE TO  EventBrite at this link
Registration deadline is MAY 6, 2015.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum App Available on iTunes

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Don’t forget to get the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum app to learn about the history of teams like the KC Monarchs, the Brooklyn Royal Giants, the Baltimore Elite Giants, the Cuban X-Giants, and all the others and help support the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s goal of honoring the All Stars and everyday players of the Negro Leagues.

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Founded in 1990, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM), located in the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District of Kansas City, MO is a privately funded, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the rich history of African-American Baseball.

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Through the inspiration of Horace M. Peterson III (1945-1992), founder of the Black Archives of Mid-America, a group of local historians, business leaders, and former baseball players came together to create the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Now the museum brings you an app to learn even more about a key time in American history surrounding the league and all of the great players involved, players like Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson, and many more.

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As Buck O’Neil once said, “Man, could we play!”. And they could.

Get the app here.

Why The Museum Is So Important

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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)

We’ve Lost Another Legend

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Minnie Minoso

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)

The Negro Leagues All Presidential Team

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.

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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.

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Arthur Hamilton (Catcher)

Hamilton played for the Indianapolis Clowns and Detroit Stars from 1953-59.

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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.

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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.

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William Pope (Pitcher)

Pope enjoyed a four-year career in the Negro Leagues pitching for the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords.

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Taylor along side Cool Papa Bell.

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.

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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.

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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.

Fergie, Rickey, Luis and the Wizard Highlight 2015 Hall of Game Class.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Face of the Negro Leagues

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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?

Take part by following Kendrick (@NLBMPrez) or Dave Barr (@daveabarr)

President Obama’s Statement On The Passing Of Ernie Banks

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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.

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The Museum Remembers The Great Ernie Banks

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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.

Buck O'Neil and Ernie Banks as part of the 1950 Kansas City Monarchs

Buck O’Neil and Ernie Banks as part of the 1950 Kansas City Monarchs 

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.

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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)

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