Located in the same building in Kansas City’s 18th and Vine neighborhood the National Negro League Baseball Museum honors some of baseball’s forgotten heroes.
The National Negro Baseball league was created in 1920 as a way for African-American baseball players to showcase their talent and earn a living playing professional baseball. Segregation was, unfortunately, a way of life at the time and the league provided a way around this. There were several Black leagues established, but the National Negro league was probably the most prominent.
The game of baseball’s popularity began to increase after the end of the American Civil War. Many integrated amateur teams were in existence, but the game was officially segregated on December 11, 1868, when the newly formed National Association of Baseball players. Despite this ban, many black baseball players created their own teams and often would travel around black communities and play exposition games. There were several attempts to establish a league to unite these black teams and to have championship play.
In 1920, under the guidance of Rube Foster owner of the Chicago American Giants several black team owners met at the black YMCA in Kansas City and established the National Negro League. A “Colored World Series” was created in 1924 to produce a yearly national champion among the league teams. The Kansas City team was the Monarchs. The Kansas City Monarchs won a total of ten national championships and had a winning record all of its seasons except one. Some of the greatest men ever to play professional baseball were among the roster of the NNL including Satchel Page, Buck O’Neil, and Jackie Robinson who be the first African American player to break the color ban and play major League baseball. In fact, the KC Monarchs would eventually send more players than any other team.
In the 1960s after the Major league was fully integrated, the NNL disbanded.
A surprising addition to the museum is the “Getty Lee Collection.” Getty Lee the lead singer of the rock band Rush” is an avid baseball fan and has studied the NNL extensively. He has donated over 200 signed baseballs to the museum which is on display. Such signatures include Hank Aaron and many of the NNL players as well.
The NNL museum is in the same building as The American Jazz Museum (which is my next post) They are located near downtown Kansas City Missouri on the intersection of 18th, and Vine streets/ A single NNL museum ticket is 10.00, but a combo with the Jazz Museum is just 15.00. I would definitely recommend a visit.