Royals

Emanuel Cleaver, Sly James, Frank White to headline fundraiser for Bob Motley sculpture

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Jackson County executive and former Royals great Frank White Jr., are headlining a fund-raising reception for a sculpture of former Negro Leagues umpire Bob Motley to be added to the Negro Leagues Museum.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Jackson County executive and former Royals great Frank White Jr., are headlining a fund-raising reception for a sculpture of former Negro Leagues umpire Bob Motley to be added to the Negro Leagues Museum. Jim Barcus

Life-sized bronze sculptures of 12 Negro League players are positioned on the Field of Legends at the Negro Leagues Museum.

There is a movement to add a 13th figure to join the likes of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Buck O’Neil, but this sculpture wouldn’t depict a playing great.

There is no umpire on the field.

A group in Kansas City wants to change that and honor Bob Motley, the ground-breaking Negro Leagues ump.

A fundraising reception for the sculpture will be held Tuesday at JJ’s Restaurant at 5 p.m., and will feature U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Mayor Sly James, Jackson County executive and former Royals great Frank White Jr., along with former Royals Amos Otis, Willie Wilson among others.

“He’s an amazing person with an amazing story,” said Dick Davis, former Kansas City councilman and chairman of the project “Umpire Bob Motley Completes the Field of Legends.”

Motley, 94, the last surviving Negro Leagues umpire, was born and grew up in Alabama. He served with the first black Marines regiment in World War II and earned a Purple Heart. It was while serving that Motley started calling balls and strikes for the Marines.

After serving, Motley moved to Kansas City and his career began in earnest. He was the first black umpire in the Ban Johnson League and was soon in the Negro Leagues and started calling games that involved Paige, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Ten years into his career, Motley became the first black umpire to enroll in baseball’s umpiring school in Florida. In 1958, he called his first minor league game in the Pacific Coast League.

Motley has remained in Kansas City, umpired baseball, officiated football and basketball. In 1973, he was the lead umpire for the College World Series. He helped start the Negro Leagues Museum.

To donate online, visit www.gofundme.com/addUmpMotleytoFieldofLegends. Also checks can made payable to ArtsKC, Motley, 106 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff

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