They say that I was born too soon. I say the doors were opened up too late – Cool Papa Bell
I’ve loved baseball for as long as I can remember. I suppose I’ve known about the Negro Baseball Leagues for almost as long. But I never really had a feel for the history of the game until the great Ken Burns documentary which came out in 1994, and it was watching that program when I was first really exposed to the story of the Negro Leagues.
In 2009, the husband and I went to an art exhibit called “Original Baseball Art” by Will Johnson. The artist had done a set of 12 (?) pieces, each of a famous ballplayer along with a quote by or about him. I loved the art and the subject and we bought a full set of small prints. Several of the players depicted were stars in the Negro Leagues, including Cool Papa Bell with the quote I included above. Seeing this exhibit somehow made these baseball players of the past come alive for me. I just looked up the artist and he is still doing the same style of work, often still focusing on baseball celebrities. Anyways, I can thank Will Johnson and Ken Burns for making me want to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
I was about to say that the museum highlights an ugly period of America’s past, but then I realized that, sadly, too much of that same ugliness exists today. Then let it be a reminder and a lesson how fine a line there is between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” discrimination and how we all need to strive to never judge people based only on how they look.
Ugliness aside, the museum is fabulous! It’s not very big, but it is crammed full with history and stories. It was a bit more than I could even take in one walk thru. My favorite part was learning about the clown baseball teams. They were like the Harlem Globetrotters, but with baseballs instead of basketballs. They would clown around in warmups and practice, but then ususally get around to serious baseball play during the games. There was a short video clip of Goose Tatum and some of his teammates on the Indianapolis Clowns playing shadow pepper that was enthralling. And just in case you didn’t believe me that they also played serious ball, this 16 yr old was signed by the team:
If you are a baseball fan, then this museum is a must add to your bucket list.
We left the museum, but rather then chance the possibility of spending two nights in the the same hotel, we headed out of town. On the way, the husband let me stop in at Rainy Day Books, the most well-known independent bookstore in the area. And then I let him stop in at Bier Station, the most well-known bottle shop and tap room in the area. Some of few remaining Texas beers went out and, of course, a few more midwest beers went in. Just to be clear, I AM NOT LETTING THE HUSBAND BUY A THIRD ICE CHEST.