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MLB, MLBPA donate $1M to NLB Museum

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred said he is fascinated with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, as well as the culture of hotels and restaurants that once flourished around Negro Leagues stadiums, such as those in the famous 18th and Vine District here.

MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark referred to his trips to the NLBM as an "evolution of my education."

KANSAS CITY -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred said he is fascinated with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, as well as the culture of hotels and restaurants that once flourished around Negro Leagues stadiums, such as those in the famous 18th and Vine District here.

MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark referred to his trips to the NLBM as an "evolution of my education."

And for years, MLB players from Derek Jeter to Adam Jones to Mookie Betts have visited the NLBM to soak in its great history and pay homage to the game's roots.

And now the preservation of that history will be further secured with Wednesday's announcement that MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to jointly donate $1 million to the NLBM.

• Posnanski: Negro Leagues' legacy still vibrant

"I'm really excited about the partnership between baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association and the Negro League Museum," Manfred said. "I realized that whenever you try to rebuild something -- like rebuild African-American participation in our game -- you need a great foundation.

"That's always the starting point, and it occurred to me that the foundation of our effort with respect to African-American players had to be an effort to make young African-American players understand the Negro Leagues, understand the significance of the Negro Leagues to African-American history and to American history."

Video: Manfred on the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

"I would not have had the opportunities that I had as a player had it not been for those that came before me," said Clark. "I would not have had the opportunity to be in the position I'm in now if it had not been for those that came before me.

"As we talk about growing and developing the game and engaging the next generation of fans and kids -- the Negro League Museum being a part of that story, baseball history being a bigger part of that story -- the level of engagement for the next generation was vital."

Video: Clark on appreciation of Negro Leagues Museum

The announcement was made inside the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Wednesday morning with NLBM president Bob Kendrick emceeing the proceedings. Also on hand were Manfred, Clark, Royals owner David Glass, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Judy Pace Flood (widow of Curt Flood), former Royals star Willie Wilson and Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

"On behalf of the board and the staff of the Negro League Baseball Museum," Kendrick said, "I want to thank Major League Baseball and the Players Association for their generosity."

Later, the ceremonial check presentation occurred moments before the start of the Royals-Red Sox game a few miles away at Kauffman Stadium.

"I think it's a great way to honor our past and honor the great players who played the game before us," Royals catcher Drew Butera said. "I think it's everybody's duty between the front offices, Major League Baseball, us [players], to remember the great guys who set the tone before us. It's a great way to honor them, and a great way to remember the great things that they did."

The donation will be allocated from the Youth Development Foundation, which is run jointly by the MLBPA and MLB. Funds will help support NLBM's operations, museum services, expansion and educational and community programming.

"Because of the sacrifices and triumphs of the men and women of the Negro Leagues," Manfred said, "the Museum is an inspirational experience for fans of any age. We appreciate the Museum's contributions to baseball and the role it can play in encouraging young people to become a part of our game."

Video: Manfred on importance of Negro Leagues Museum

Some of the funds will help continue refurbishing the site at the Paseo YMCA, where the original Negro Leagues charter was signed in 1920. That site now has been renamed the Buck O'Neil Education and Research Center.

"The history of our great sport would be incomplete and inaccurate if the Negro Leagues Museum wasn't around to tell the story," Clark said.

The NLBM, founded in the early 1990s, is located in the famous 18th and Vine District and features multimedia computer stations, several film exhibits, hundreds of photographs, a replica field with 12 bronze sculptures and a growing collection of baseball artifacts.

"The history," Mayor James noted, "all comes through 18th and Vine."

In 1920, an organized league structure was formed under the guidance of Andrew "Rube" Foster -- a former player, manager, and owner with the Chicago American Giants. In a meeting held at the Paseo YMCA, Foster and a few other Midwestern team owners joined to form the Negro National League. Soon, rival leagues formed in eastern and southern states.

While Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier obviously was an historic event, it also prompted the decline of the Negro Leagues. Soon after Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, the best black players were recruited for the Major Leagues.

The last Negro Leagues teams folded in the early 1960s. Their legacy lives on through the surviving players and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

"At some point, the last of the Negro Leagues players will pass on, unfortunately," Kendrick said. "But we cannot let the legacy die."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

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