By Joseph Phillips, Crusader Sports Writer
Crusader discusses milestone anniversary with Negro League Baseball Museum president
In honor of its 100th year anniversary, Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro League Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, sat down with the Crusader on Monday, July 20, to talk about the history of Negro League Baseball, and the resurgence of Blacks as players in Major League Baseball.
Kendrick said the Negro League would not have existed without the brains and the wits of Chicago businessman Rube Foster.
“What Rube Foster accomplished in establishing the Negro Leagues against the backdrop of American segregation is monumental and richly deserves to be more than just a footnote in baseball history,” said Kendrick via an NLBM press release.
“The Negro Leagues would change the game, and America too. This milestone anniversary creates a platform for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to educate the public about this powerful story of triumph over adversity while using the many relevant life-lessons to inspire a nation to embrace diversity…”
Kendrick credits Andrew “Rube” Foster, a Chicago native, for starting the league after leading eight independent Black baseball team owners into a meeting held at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City, MO, back in 1920.
Out of that meeting, Kendrick said, “came the birth of the Negro National League, the first successful, organized professional Black baseball league that provided a playing field for African-American and Hispanic baseball players to showcase their world-class baseball abilities.”
The Negro Leagues would operate for 40 years, becoming a catalyst for economic growth in African-American communities across the country, and helping to spark social change in America.
The League was solely responsible for integrating the game of Major League Baseball after Jackie Roosevelt Robinson became the first African American to play in the Major’s in the modern era. Robinson broke the baseball color line when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
According to the Negro League Baseball Museum, the group announced plans to lead a yearlong national Centennial Celebration in 2020 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues and unveiled the official logo for the occasion.
The festivities will include a major fundraising initiative, the opening of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center (in the site of the Paseo YMCA), along with an array of programs and events held in Kansas City and other select U.S. cities. Additionally, the NLBM plans to establish February 13 as a “National Day of Recognition.”
The Resurgence of Blacks In Major League Baseball:
During an appearance on the “What’s Up Cuz Show” on Monday, July 20, (which also airs on the Crusader website and Sports Zone Chicago app every Monday at 6 p.m.), Kendrick also stated he has seen a resurgence of interest from young African American athletes in the game of baseball.
Statistics show since 1981, 18.7 percent of MLB players were African American. By 2017, only 6.7 percent of MLB players were African American. While the number of African American players in the league fell, the number of Latino players began to rise (Source: UPI.com).
Latino players replaced African American players as the second most dominant race/ethnicity in MLB by 1993. By 2017, 27.4 percent of MLB players were Latinos, according to the date compiled by the Society of American Baseball Research
In 1947, less than one percent of MLB players — three or four — were from Latin America. Opening day rosters in 2019 included 90 players from the Dominican Republic, 53 from Venezuela, 20 from Cuba, 19 from Puerto Rico, eight from Mexico, six from Canada, six from Japan, five from Curacao, five from South Korea, four from Colombia and two from Germany.
MLB opening day rosters included one player from several other countries, including: Australia, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Aruba, Brazil and Panama (Source: UPI.com).