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The best Negro Leagues players could become bobbleheads — if there’s enough support

The Negro Leagues bobbleheads Kickstarter campaign has launched

To mark the centennial of baseball's Negro Leagues in 2020, organizers hope to produce a series of limited-edition bobbleheads of the league's greatest players.
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To mark the centennial of baseball's Negro Leagues in 2020, organizers hope to produce a series of limited-edition bobbleheads of the league's greatest players.

To mark the upcoming centennial of baseball’s Negro National League, which was born in Kansas City, organizers hope to commemorate an honorary team of the league’s best players with a series of special bobbleheads.

As an example, the first one, featuring pitcher Satchel Paige of the Kansas City Monarchs, already has been produced.

The Paige bobblehead stands in mid-pitch on a baseball-shaped base in front of a replica of the Kansas City YMCA at 18th Street and the Paseo, where the Negro National League was organized by Rube Foster on Feb. 13, 1920.

Production of the rest of the licensed, limited-edition bobbleheads will depend on a Kickstarter campaign launched Wednesday by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum and the organization Dreams Fulfilled, which was formed to promote the Negro League centennial.

“The Negro Leagues Centennial Team series will bring long overdue recognition to players who were not only among the best to play the game, but also early civil rights pioneers who helped pave the way for integration in baseball and the country,” Dreams Fulfilled founder Jay Caldwell said in a statement.

Satchel Paige Negro League Centennial Series Bobblehead.jpg
Satchel Paige of the Kansas City Monarchs in bobblehead form, created for the Negro Leagues centennial. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame

The Kickstarter campaign seeks to raise $10,000 by Jan. 7. Donors may give any amount, but contributors of $20 or more will get first dibs and better pricing for the bobbleheads, which will be individually numbered up to 2,020.

The bobblehead series is licensed by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at 18th and Vine in Kansas City, where President Bob Kendrick and Caldwell on Wednesday announced the African-American and Hispanic players selected for the Centennial Team and who played between 1895 to 1947, when jackie Robinson became the first African-American in the major leagues.

“This is really important because not only is it a way to perpetuate the legacy of the Negro leagues but its such a tremendous way to educate the public about these legendary athletes who the majority of people have no idea about,” Kendrick said.

Paige’s eldest child, Pamela, attended the announcement.

“As a child of someone who is famous, you’re not aware that your father is a very famous person,” Pamela Paige O’Neal said. “When my father came home off the road, it was all about his children and family and we did family things.”

If the Kickstarter campaign is successful, bobbleheads of the entire Centennial Team of 30 players plus a manager and an owner will be introduced on average of two a month through February 2020.

The bobbleheads will be available at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum’s online and retail stores, at the Dreams Fullfilled website and at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum store and other outlets. They are expected to retail for $30 plus $8 shipping.

A portion of the proceeds of each sale will go to relatives of the players and to the Negro Leagues museum.

In addition to Paige, four other Monarchs were selected for the Centennial Team — more than from any other team. The other Monarchs are Buck O’Neil (as manager), Bullet Joe Rogan, Hilton Smith and J.L. Wilkinson (as owner.)

The players were voted on through an online poll and supplemented by a selection of five additional players. In all, there are 11 pitchers, three catchers, five outside infielders, three inside infielders, seven outfielders, one utility player and a manager and an owner.

Here’s the Centennial Team in alphabetical order by first name. Many were associated with more than one team, but they are listed with the team most associated with the peak of their contribution to the game.

Andrew “Rube” Foster, Chicago American Giants, Chicago

Bill Foster, Cuban Base Ball Club, Havana, Cuba

Buck Leonard, Homestead Grays, Homestead, Pa.

Cristobal Torriente, Los Elefantes de Marianao, Marianao, Havana, Cuba

George “Mule” Suttles, Newark Eagles, Newark, N.J.

Herbert “Rap” Dixon, Hilldale Giants, Los Angeles, Ca.

Hilton Smith, Kansas City Monarchs, Kansas City

J.L. Wilkinson, Kansas City Monarchs, Kansas City

James “Cool Papa” Bell, St. Louis Stars, St. Louis

John “Buck” O’Neil, Kansas City Monarchs, Kansas City

John Donaldson, All Nations, Kansas City

John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, Brooklyn Royal Giants, Brooklyn, N.Y.

José Méndez, Almendares, Havana, Cuba

Josh Gibson, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Jud Wilson, Philadelphia Stars, Philadelphia

Larry Doby, Newark Eagles, Newark, N.J.

Leon Day, Los Tiburones de Aguadilla, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

Martin Dihigo, Las Aguilas de Santiago, Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic

Monte Irvin, Newark Eagles, Newark, N.J.

Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, Detroit Stars, Detroit

Oscar Charleston, Harrisburg Giants, Harrisburg, Pa.

Pete Hill, Leland Giants, Chicago

Raleigh “Biz” Mackey, Philadelphia Giants, Philadelphia

Ray Brown, Homestead Grays, Homestead, Pa.

Ray Dandridge, Los Azules de Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico

Richard “Cannonball Dick” Redding, New York Lincoln Giants, New York

Roy Campanella, Baltimore Elite Giants, Baltimore

Satchel Paige, Kansas City Monarchs, Kansas City

“Smokey Joe” Williams, New York Lincoln Giants, New York

Wilbur “Bullet Joe” Rogan, Kansas City Monarchs, Kansas City

William “Judy” Johnson, Hilldale Club, Hilldale, Pa.

Willie Wells, St. Louis Stars, St. Louis

Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum scored another run this week with Major League Baseball’s announcement that it and the Jackie Robinson Foundation will receive proceeds from the 2018 Winter Meetings Charity Auction. The money will help pay for repairs after vandals cut a water pipe this summer at the Buck O’Neil Research and Education Center, causing significant damage to the former YMCA.

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Matt Campbell has been a news reporter for The Kansas City Star since 1982.


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