Leave it to Bob Kendrick to come up with another inspired idea to help raise the profile of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which had grand plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues in 2020, many of which have been hindered by the COVID-19
Leave it to Bob Kendrick to come up with another inspired idea to help raise the profile of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which had grand plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues in 2020, many of which have been hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In keeping with the spirit of the Negro Leagues, Kendrick, the museum’s president, has been undeterred by these challenges and hit upon an idea to have celebrities, dignitaries, athletes of all sports -- and anyone else who wanted to join in -- tip their cap to the great players who were not given a chance to play in the Major Leagues until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Dodgers in 1947.
You know you’re on to something when four former presidents -- Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- join in the celebration. President Carter issued a statement, while Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama submitted videos to www.TippingYourCap.com, the home of the project.
“That alone validates this project,” Kendrick said. “In many ways, it validates the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Naturally, we feel that is a coup. It’s the ultimate show of respect of what this museum represents, not only here in Kansas City, but to our nation.”
With the coronavirus delaying the start of the Major League season, the league’s plan to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League -- slated for last Saturday night, June 27 -- was missed. While MLB is planning to honor the Negro Leagues at a later date once the season begins, Kendrick did not want to let pass an opportunity to use the planned date to raise the profile of the Negro Leagues, its players and the NLBM.
While he was the one who came up with the idea of tipping your cap, Kendrick’s “brother,” sportswriter Joe Posnanski, who wrote " The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America," spearheaded the project to help bring awareness to the Negro Leagues. With the help of friend and business partner Dan McGinn, the project has been a success.
“Whenever I have a crazy idea, I call Joe,” Kendrick said. “I was waiting for him to tell me this is a crazy idea, just put it aside, but he didn’t do that. In fact, he said, it was a great idea.”
Posnanski and McGinn then put together the Tip Your Cap campaign, which started two weeks ago. They wrapped their arms around the project and embraced it.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” Posnanski said. “It’s been an exhausting amount of work, but Dan, leading the way on the political side and Bob leading the way in sports, we have an enormous number of huge stars across entertainment, sports, politics and business who are tipping their cap over the next three weeks until baseball Opening Day. People have been extraordinary. … It is way bigger than any of us thought would be, which is so great. It’s nonstop, but it has been wonderful.”
The response has been outstanding. People from former Secretary of State Colin Powell to late night talk show host Stephen Colbert to NBA legend Michael Jordan took selfies to tip their caps to the Negro Leagues. Commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball Players Association president Tony Clark sent in videos with their thoughts on the Negro Leagues, as did former Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and Astros manager Dusty Baker.
Current players Nelson Cruz of the Twins, Dexter Fowler of the Cardinals and Whit Merrifield of the Royals took part, joined by White Sox VP Ken Williams. Four generations of Robinsons -- Jackie’s wife, Rachel, their daughter Sharon, their granddaughter Meta and great-granddaughter Jessica Simms -- did a video together. And the list grows daily, with the four former presidents providing a big lift to the project on Monday.
Anyone can join in, and tipping your cap to the Negro Leagues is a simple three-step process:
Step 1: Take a photo or short video of yourself tipping your cap to the Negro Leagues. If you would like to include some words -- maybe about the cap you are using, why you feel connected to it, what the Negro Leagues mean to you, etc. -- that would be great.
Step 2: Send the photo/video to [email protected].
Step 3: Post your video on social media using the hashtag #TipYourCap2020.
The NLBM is located on East 18th Street, between Vine and Highland, just across from the Gem Theater in Kansas City. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT, Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Occupancy is limited to 150 to 200 people at a time in order to provide for safe social distancing.
The NLBM 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 percent 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.
Please consider Tipping Your Cap and supporting the Negro League Baseball Museum and the great work it does in honoring and preserving the history of the Negro Leagues.
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.