Negro Leagues 101: An education initiative

February 13th, 2021

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick introduced the Negro Leagues 101 initiative on Saturday afternoon, coinciding with the 101st anniversary of the leagues.

The ceremony took place in Kansas City at the Buck O'Neil Education and Research Center at the Paseo YMCA, where the Negro National League was founded on Feb. 13, 1920.

Kendrick said Negro Leagues 101 will be an education initiative that includes a series of programs, events and virtual reality projects.

For example, there will be a series on the women who made an impact on the Negro Leagues, such as Effa Manley, who was part owner of the Newark Eagles from 1935-48. Manley did more than own the Eagles -- she was in charge of the team’s business operations. It was her show.

The museum is also developing digital content that will include the digitalization of two of its acclaimed traveling exhibitions: “Negro Leagues Beisbol,” which celebrates the connection between the Negro Leagues and Spanish-speaking countries, and “Barrier Breakers,” a chronicle of all the players who broke their respective Major League Baseball team’s color barrier, from Jackie Robinson joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 to Elijah “Pumpsie” Green completing the integration cycle with the Boston Red Sox in 1959.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum also announced acquisitions from the estate of Penny Marshall, who directed the baseball film “A League of Their Own” and starred in the TV series “Laverne and Shirley.” Marshall, who died in 2018, willed her Negro Leagues collection to the museum. The collection included a bat crafted by Lyman Bostock Sr., a former Negro Leaguer and the father of former Major League outfielder Lyman Bostock Jr.

The Marshall collection also includes signed photographs, baseball programs and other publications, as well as several unique posters of Reece “Goose” Tatum as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. Tatum was also a star in the Negro Leagues, notably with the Indianapolis Clowns.

“You talk about this coming from Penny Marshall, it adds another level,” Kendrick said. “I hope this resonates with other people, who may look at the museum and say, ‘I need to do something similar or help and support the museum in a similar fashion.’”

Also showcased by the museum was a handwritten letter to White Sox owner Charles Comiskey penned by Bud Fowler in April 1908. Long before Robinson with the Dodgers, Fowler was one of the first African Americans to play professional baseball (in the Minor Leagues) with white players during the 19th century.

This letter was written after Fowler’s playing career ended, congratulating the White Sox on winning games in the Northeast. The Fowler letter was acquired because of the support of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, who made a joint $1 million contribution to the museum in February 2020.

Fans can visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City on East 18th Street, between Vine Street and Highland Avenue, just across from the Gem Theater. There will be limited hours (11 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT, Tuesday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday; noon to 4 p.m., Sunday) and increased sanitizing every day. Occupancy will be limited to 200 people at a time.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a privately funded, non-profit organization. Annually renewing memberships to support the museum are available ranging from $25 to $1,000. Membership includes free admission for the year, a 10% discount on merchandise from the NLBM Extra Inning Store and advance information on special events. Members also receive a gift and additional benefits at each level of support.