Baseball Landmark

In 1920, at a Kansas City YMCA in the Jazz District on 18th Street, Andrew “Rube” Foster called together a meeting of Negro Leagues baseball owners, with the idea of creating a unified, sustainable, and proud Negro League.

Rube Foster, a native Chicagoan, was a former Negro Leagues star pitcher, who after his retirement, traded fastballs for business deals. Foster bought his own team, the Chicago American Giants, and became the team’s president and an incredibly savvy businessman. But Foster had a vision of an organized league to rival the popularity of Major League Baseball’s National and American Leagues.

In 1920, in Kansas City, the Negro National League was formed and so began the first functional and thriving Negro League. Yesterday Nick, Toby, and I were able to visit this historic spot, too often forgot about in baseball history.

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Ninety-three years later, if you walk up the road from the YMCA, you see hope. There are businesses popping up, there are renovations being made to buildings, and there are people coming into the Jazz District to visit places like the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum or the American Jazz Museum. But there is still work to be done 66 years after the desegregation of baseball. You see the boarded up scars of a once vibrant community and off of 18th St., there is a neighborhood that is still in need of healing.

Once Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier of baseball in 1947, other players, like Larry Doby, soon followed him to the Majors. The Negro Leagues could not compete because all of their best players headed to the big leagues. The Negro League teams often went uncompensated for their players under contract, lost attendance, began to bleed money, and were not able to sustain themselves. The proud baseball and jazz communities, were at the mercy of an all white fraternity. There were no African Americans in the front offices of MLB and there was no money going back into these communities.

This is still going on today. The communities home to baseball continue to be underserved and underdeveloped because money goes from the suburbs to the stadium and passes over the people who have historically given baseball the life it has today. And when a baseball team begins to develop the areas around stadiums, it is not in conjunction and in conversation with the community who has been there for decades, it is on the team’s terms in hopes of bringing in “better” business. Experience Baseball wants to change this mentality. We want baseball to be something unifying and transcendent, not dividing and tearing.

Comments

  1. makes me wonder about all the so called “good intentions” of the jackie robinson experiment, but i heard the other day that an impressive number of african americans were drafted in the first 2 or 3 rounds of this year’s MLB draft…..impressive as in in way more than previous years. They’re crediting it to inner city developmental programs like baseball funds for tomorrow.
    it’s freaking great news if you ask me. i’m all for international baseball players in the majors….domincan republic, cuba, japan, and what not, but it always bummed me out when i heard about african american communities not digging baseball anymore or low income neighborhoods unable to compete with the private club suburban baseball clinic thing. great article!

    • Yes, the number of African Americans in baseball has been extremely low in the past decade, both players and coaches, but this past draft looked promising with the improvement on the declining trend. Hopefully, this keeps up. Thank you for your comment and let others know about us! -EB

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