Negro Leagues Baseball Museum gears up for new exhibit and initiatives
By John Sharp
These years are likely to be the most exciting in the history of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) since it moved in 1997 from a small office into its present 10,000 square foot facility in a building it shares with the American Jazz Museum in the historic 18th & Vine area, according to Museum President Bob Kendrick.
Speaking at the February virtual meeting of the South Kansas City Alliance (SKCA), Kendrick discussed the recent renaming of the Kansas City T-Bones as the Kansas City Monarchs, the Museum’s new Barrier Breakers exhibit, the upcoming issuance of coins commemorating the centennial of the founding here of the Negro National League, the likely approval of a special NLBM license plate and a new educational initiative on Negro Leagues history.
Kendrick said the new owners of the Monarchs will pay royalties to the Museum for use of the name and have agreed to showcase an exhibit about the Museum and the Negro Leagues at the team’s home stadium in western Wyandotte County and at all of its road games. The Monarchs will play in the American Association of Professional Baseball which last year became a partner league with Major League Baseball. The 12 teams in the league include 11 largely Midwest teams and one Canadian team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes, and each will play a 100-game schedule.
The Monarchs will open the season on May 18, playing a three-game home series versus the Lincoln Saltdogs at the Monarchs’ stadium which has been renamed the Field of Legends after the Museum’s showcase exhibit of life-size bronze statues of Negro Leagues stars at their positions on a miniature ballfield. The Barrier Breakers exhibit features the African-American athletes that broke the color barrier to play in previously segregated professional sports including basketball, football and hockey, as well as baseball.
The baseball portion of the exhibit chronicles all these players who broke their respective Major League teams’ color barriers beginning with Monarchs star Jackie Robinson who joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and concluding with Elijah”Pumpsie” Green who finally completed Major League’s integration cycle with the Boston Red Sox in 1959. Kendrick said the commemorative coins were authorized by bipartisan federal legislation sponsored by Representative Emanuel Cleaver and Senator Roy Blunt that passed both branches of Congress without dissent.
The legislation authorizes the U.S. Treasury to mint up to 50,000 $5 gold coins containing no less than 90% gold, up to 400,000 $1 silver coins containing no less than 90% silver and up to 400,000 half dollars clad with a nickel-copper alloy that looks like silver with a pure copper core. There will be a $35 surcharge for the $5 coins, a $10 surcharge for the $1 coins and a $5 surcharge for the half dollars in addition to the added costs for designing and minting the coins. Discounts may be allowed for bulk purchases.
The coins will hit the market in 2022, but prepaid orders are expected to be accepted before then. There will be no cost to taxpayers to mint the coins since the Treasury recovers all its costs, and the balance of the revenue, expected to be several million dollars, will go to the Museum. They are expected to have wide appeal to both coin collectors and baseball enthusiasts.
Two bills currently are under consideration in the Missouri General Assembly to authorize special NLBM license plates — House Bill 100 introduced by my son Representative Mark Sharp and Senate Bill 189 introduced by Senator Barbara Anne Washington. HB 100 is scheduled to be heard March 1 by the House Consent and House Procedure Committee, and SB 189 has been approved by the full Senate as of February 26 after being recommended for passage as a consent bill by the Senate Progress & Development Committee following a hearing Kendrick testified at.
The identical bills allow persons who contribute $10 to the Museum to purchase a set of the special plates with the Museum’s logo and name for a $15 fee in addition to the regular vehicle registration fees.
Kendrick kicked off the educational initiative named Negro Leagues 101 on February 13, the 101st anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League at the Paseo YMCA at the same site, now the home of the Museum’s Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center. He noted it will include a series on women who made a significant impact on the Negro Leagues including several outstanding players and Effa Manley, part owner of the Newark Eagles from 1935-48, who was in charge of all of the team’s business operations.