KANSAS CITY -- Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced a joint donation of $1 million to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Thursday on the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Negro Leagues.
The donation will complement efforts to educate and raise awareness of the impact the Negro Leagues and its players had on the sport and society. Funds from the donation will support the Buck O'Neil Education and Research Center, located at the Paseo YMCA, where the Negro National League was founded on this date in 1920. The NLBM hopes to have the center open to the public by the end of this year.
Fans may donate to the cause at nlbm.com/centennial.
“It’s tremendously gratifying and certainly very gracious and generous of Major League Baseball and the Players Association to give this significant donation to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum,” NLBM president Bob Kendrick said. “It’s certainly going to allow us to continue to grow the audience that we are reaching with this story of the Negro Leagues. That is so profoundly important. This marks the second gift that we received from the group collectively, and it’s being put to great use.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred said it didn’t take long for MLB and the MLBPA to come to an agreement when it came to contributing to the NLBM.
“[MLB and the Players Association] are big fans of what has been done here in the district, the museum, [the research center], the Royals Academy -- just part of a continuing investment on behalf of Major League Baseball and the players,” said Manfred, who attended the event along with other dignitaries, such as MLBPA chief operating officer Xavier James, Royals majority owner John Sherman and Royals great Frank White.
The history and legacy of the men and women of the Negro Leagues will be celebrated by MLB, players and clubs during the 2020 season.
On June 27, all Major League clubs will recognize the centennial celebration. Players, managers, coaches and umpires will wear a symbolic Negro Leagues 100th anniversary logo during all games. The logo, which was created by the museum, also will be featured on base jewels and lineup cards. Uniforms with the patch will not be available for retail.
“We intend to put our shoulders behind the 100th anniversary celebration,” Manfred said. “I can’t tell you exactly what each individual club will do, but I know there will be celebrations probably in most of the parks. The lesson here is a lesson of inclusion, the significance of inclusion in terms of the sport. I also think it’s really important to us in terms of our youth efforts. We’ve worked very hard to make sure we have diversity on the field. It’s reflective of the diversity in America. I don’t think you can achieve that goal unless you can show young people that people who look like them are a part of your history. The Negro League museum does a phenomenal job in that regard.”
• Negro League players in the Hall of Fame
In addition to the league-wide recognition in June, many MLB clubs have planned special 100th anniversary ballpark and community activities. Examples include Negro Leagues tribute games with throwback uniforms, gameday giveaways, special guests and pregame panels, documentary film screenings and auctions to support the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum or related organizations.
Manfred credited Kendrick for raising the profile of the NLBM.
“Kendrick is a tremendous leader,” Manfred said. “I think he has built a great partnership with the Players Association, with us. He has really encouraged us to help publicize the story of the museum.”
MLB will provide an opportunity for hundreds of youth baseball and softball players, including high school and college student-athletes, to learn about Negro Leagues history. Kendrick is scheduled to attend the Andre Dawson Classic, a college baseball tournament hosted by MLB at the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy to highlight baseball programs at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs). And the Hank Aaron Invitational, a development experience designed to serve underrepresented high school-age players -- operated by MLB, the MLBPA and USA Baseball -- will take place at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla., in July.
In addition, in February, MLB will host Kendrick in its offices to participate in a panel discussion with MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds and others.
Throughout the year, MLB Network will air vignettes introduced by Kendrick and Reynolds about Negro Leagues players. MLB.com and MLB social media platforms also will highlight Negro Leagues players as well as league and club activities. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has designated a special anniversary hashtag to be used on social media -- #NegroLeagues100.
Those efforts are a continuation of support for the NLBM from MLB and the MLBPA. In June 2017, MLB and the MLBPA jointly contributed $1 million to the museum, aiming to inspire future generations of underrepresented youth to play baseball through learning about the history of the Negro Leagues, which has been sustained by the museum. The contribution, allocated from the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, supported operations, museum services, expansion, and educational and community programming. In particular, a portion of the funds allowed the Museum to complete the Buck O'Neil Education and Research Center.
MLB and the MLBPA contributed to the construction of the Kansas City Royals MLB Urban Youth Academy, a state-of-the-art baseball, softball and education complex situated near the NLBM. The academy, which is part of the widespread MLB Youth Academy Network, features four outdoor turf fields, an educational press box and a 38,000-square-foot indoor facility that includes a turf infield, batting tunnels, classrooms and an athletic training room.
Hours after the afternoon celebration, NLBM displayed an exhibit called Black Baseball In Living Color. It’s the artwork of Graig Kreindler, who took black-and-white photos of Negro League players and made color paintings out of them. It took Kreindler three years to complete the project. The exhibit will be opened to the public starting Friday and will end on May 31.
There were sections of the exhibit that had a painting of Rube Foster, who helped create the Negro National League, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell and Jackie Robinson. Kreindler also did paintings of 107 players who played in the Negro Leagues, such as Willie Mays and Monte Irvin.
“I’m incredibly overwhelmed and overjoyed by [the exhibit],” Kreindler said “Being able to be a part of this is like an honor I never really thought I would ever have. … It blows my mind.”
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.