The more than 2,600 athletes who played for the segregated teams of the Negro Leagues probably never could have imagined this moment: the day when Major League Baseball would make a lasting commitment to the museum in Kansas City dedicated to honoring those players.
It has been a long time coming for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
On Wednesday, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and Tony Clark, the head of the players’ union, will visit the storied museum in the 18th & Vine Jazz District to make what has been billed as a major announcement.
Major League Baseball will unveil a contribution, providing a shot of adrenaline to the 30-year-old nonprofit museum and forging a new relationship between the present-day MLB and the protector of an essential part of the sport’s history.
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Museum president Bob Kendrick credits both Manfred and Clark for being the proverbial right people in the right roles and for helping secure the museum’s future through what he termed a “substantial partnership.”
Partnership is the operative word.
Kendrick says the museum has “always aspired to have a deep-rooted working relationship with baseball.”
This new partnership should prove to be a boon for both Major League Baseball and for Kansas City.
It’s one thing for MLB to give a nod to the era of the Negro Leagues, a period when legalized segregation and racial attitudes kept some of the most talented men from playing ball in front of larger audiences.
But now, Major League Baseball is also supporting the vision that has long distinguished the museum, which is more than a resource to preserve the memorabilia and stories of the Negro Leagues players. The museum also plays an important role in cultivating an appreciation of the game today.
Only 62 players in the MLB are U.S.-born African-Americans, Kendrick says. Over time, baseball’s allure has diminished in the urban core, with many young African-Americans opting for other pursuits.
Clark is the first African-American executive director of the MLB Players Association. He’s a recipient of the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the museum, an honor named after the legend who broke the color barrier in professional baseball.
Robinson never could have achieved his success without those who came before him in the Negro Leagues. Kansas City’s treasured museum provides a reminder that the same is true for those who play and work in baseball today.