Correa enjoys Negro Leagues history lesson
Astros shortstop tours museum during World Series in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY -- The next time Carlos Correa attends a World Series, he'd like to do so as a player, not a spectator. But while he waits for the Astros to take the next step and get that far in the postseason, the rookie shortstop is enjoying his time as a guest this week during baseball's greatest event.
Correa is a guest correspondent for MLB.com during Games 1 and 2, and while he's here in Kansas City, he's taking in as much of the flavor and history of the city as possible.
On Tuesday, Correa had lunch at Joe's Kansas City, one of the region's most famous barbecue joints. On Wednesday, Correa toured the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, located in the heart of one of Kansas City's most historic neighborhoods. The museum tells the story of the formation and existence of the Negro Leagues, established in 1920 as a showcase for some of the best players to ever wear a baseball uniform.
"It made a really great impression," Correa said. "I felt like I was going back in time to learn about history of the Negro Leagues. It was amazing. There are a lot of great players that I didn't know about, and now I know. It's always good to learn about history. It was a great experience."
Correa was particularly impressed with some of the more eye-popping statistics of select Negro League players, like James "Cool Papa" Bell, considered the fastest man to ever play the game. Bell was once reportedly clocked circling the bases in 12 seconds.
Correa was also taken back by the strength and endurance of Negro League players, compared to today's Major Leaguers.
"What surprised me were guys that can throw 105 miles per hour, and that used 50-ounce bats," he said. "That's impressive. Playing 160 games a season, you get tired. To use a 50-ounce bat, it was really impressive to hear that."
The Negro Leagues, founded under the guidance of Andrew "Rube" Foster, formed during a meeting between Foster and other Midwestern team owners in Kansas City. The meeting took place at the Paseo YMCA, located just around the corner from where the museum is located.
It was there that the Negro National League was born, and soon, rival leagues formed in eastern and southern states as well, creating a competitive, popular baseball showcase that produced some of the greatest baseball talent in history.
Before breaking the Major League color barrier in 1947, Jackie Robinson starred for the Kansas City Monarchs. Other Hall of Famers who played in the Negro Leagues included Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roy Campanella and Ernie Banks.
The main room at the museum depicts a miniature baseball field, with statues placed at each position, representing the very best of the Negro Leagues. Correa was particularly interested in the statue of shortstop William "Judy" Johnson, a .309 lifetime hitter who played 17 years in the Negro Leagues and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.
Correa posed for pictures with Johnson's statue and then proceeded to take a quick lap around the bases of the exhibit, ending with a round of high fives with "spectators" sitting near home plate.
Correa, not even a year removed from the Minor Leagues, walked away with a new appreciation for what life was like for Negro League players -- no frills, few perks, modest pay. And a love for the game that still resonates today.
"It felt like Rookie ball in the Minor Leagues," Correa said. "Where you eat peanut butter and you sleep on the bus, you've got to wake up early all the time to be on the field, and the only time you have to sleep is on the bus. It's really tough. Playing in the Negro Leagues, I bet it was really tough for them.
"They had two sets of uniforms and a glove and a bat that they shared all the time. It was really tough. They loved the game, they had passion for the game and they loved playing. It was impressive."