By Max Goodwin
An audience was captivated by the stories of Bob Kendrick, Executive Director of the Negro League Baseball Museum, as he made an appearance at the latest South Kansas City Alliance meeting, January 10, at KCPD’s South Patrol.
This is a big moment for the museum, Kendrick explained to the crowd. There is the obvious part: last month it was announced that the museum’s beloved founder Buck O’Neil will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
On November 12th of this year the museum plans to hold a welcome home Hall of Fame Celebration for Buck.
This year is also the 75th anniversary of the breaking of baseball’s color barrier in 1947 when Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson began his professional baseball career with the Kansas City Monarchs.
The opportunity is there for the museum to capitalize on this year in a big way, and it starts with the coins that the U.S. Mint has created honoring Negro Leagues baseball. It wasn’t an easy process, requiring three-fourths of Congress to agree that the Negro Leagues should be featured on coins.
“I don’t have to tell you all, but there’s not a lot of bipartisanship going on in D.C.,” Kendrick told the crowd. But enough of them agreed that the Negro Leagues should be honored for the coins to advance.
Kendrick spoke at the South Kansas City Alliance meeting in hopes that it could spur people to purchase coins because they will only be sent out if the total amount is sold.
It has been a time marked by resiliency for the museum. 2020 was supposed to be a big year for the museum as they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the National Negro League being founded at the YMCA at 18th and Paseo. Instead, the plans were washed away by a pandemic.
The coins will celebrate that 100th anniversary this year. The five-dollar gold coin is the most expensive of the set and features Rube Foster, who first established the Negro National League. Kendrick says the coins represent the resilient spirit of the Negro Leagues.
“You see, these athletes never cried about social injustice, they went out and did something about it. ‘You won’t let me play with you, I’ll create my own.’ It’s that spirit that we had to embody to save what was going to be this milestone celebration,” he said.
The museum needed to find its footing after the death of Buck O’Neil, and Bob Kendrick has done that in the last decade. But these coins by the U.S. Mint have the potential to ensure the Negro League Museum remains in a solid financial position and a place for future generations to learn about the passion and perseverance of the Negro League baseball story.
The coins are currently available for presale on the website of the U.S. Mint and would be shipped on April 29th. If the entire allotment of coins is sold it would generate $6 million in revenue for the museum.
“These coins will create great change for our museum, pun intended,” Kendrick said. “This is literally a game changer. Of course, we are all committed. If we are able to realize that full $6 million in revenue that we are going to try and leverage to turn $6 million into $12 million. And thus, lay the foundation for the museum to sustain itself into perpetuity.”
“There aren’t very many small cultural institutions that are in that position,” Kendrick said.