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Celebration of Negro Leagues museum on deck

Aaron among all-time greats set to appear at anniversary gala

KANSAS CITY -- An appearance by Hank Aaron, recognized by Major League Baseball as one of the game's four greatest living players, will highlight Silver Slugging Memories -- Negro Leagues Baseball Museum's 25th anniversary gala -- on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT in the Grand Ballroom of Bartle Hall in Kansas City.

The event will celebrate the development of the NLBM, which was founded by the late Buck O'Neil in a tiny, one-room office in Kansas City's 18th & Vine Jazz District and has grown into one of the greatest treasure troves of baseball history. Proceeds will benefit the NLBM and the continued development of the Buck O'Neil Education and Research Center (BOERC).

"This is a rare opportunity to pause and reflect on what has been an amazing journey for a little museum that few gave any chance of succeeding when we were established in 1990," NLBM president Bob Kendrick said in a press release. "Here we stand today, 25 years later, recognized as America's National Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

"We also understand the opportunity this celebration creates to position the museum for continued growth and prosperity and are thrilled to have secured a dynamic leadership to help maximize fundraising potential."

Aaron's pro career began in 1952 with the Negro Leagues' Indianapolis Clowns, before the Boston Braves signed him. Shortly thereafter, he began a 25-year career with the Braves (in Milwaukee and Atlanta) and Brewers. Aaron would surpass former home run king Babe Ruth and finish his career with 755 homers. He still holds MLB records for total bases (6,856), RBIs (2,297) and extra-base hits (1,477), and he ranks third in hits (3,771).

"Hank Aaron is one of the most important figures -- not just in baseball history, but in sports and American history," Kendrick said in the statement. "His baseball credentials speak loudly and profoundly for themselves, and in many ways help validate the talent that was in the Negro Leagues. Couple his magnificent baseball career with his success as a businessman and humanitarian, and it propels him to another level of greatness. We're honored that he will be part of our celebration."

The celebration also will include remembrances of the late Ernie Banks and Minnie Minoso; the presentation of the Buck O'Neil Legacy Award; and O'Neil's 104th birthday party, featuring a concert by soul and funk group Morris Day and the Time.

The Chicago White Sox and U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II will receive the Buck O'Neil Legacy Award, presented annually for "Outstanding Support of the NLBM." The White Sox are the only MLB club to bring its entire team to tour the NLBM. They have provided financial support to the museum and advocated for the Negro Leagues, and they've created the "Double Duty Classic" in honor of Negro League star Ted 'Double Duty' Radcliffe.

As Kansas City's mayor, Cleaver's leadership paved the way for the NLBM to become part of the cultural complex known as Museums at 18th & Vine. As a congressman, he was instrumental in procuring "National Designation" for the NLBM and helped leverage funding support for the Buck O'Neil Center. Cleaver also delivered the museum's inaugural baseball sermon at Kauffman Stadium this year as part of the Kansas City Royals' annual "Salute to the Negro Leagues." Cleaver gave eulogies for Satchel Paige in 1982 and O'Neil in 2006.

Also in attendance will be Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins and Dave Winfield, as well as former Major Leaguers Jim "Mudcat" Grant, Lee Smith, J.R. Richard, Amos Otis, George Altman, Joe Carter, Willie Wilson, Jeffrey Hammonds, Tony Clark, Jerry Manuel and Jeffrey Hammonds.

More information on the gala is available at or by calling the NLBM at (816) 221-1920.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page.