By Jerry Crasnick
Amid the kickoff to the Negro Leagues’ 100th anniversary celebration, Bob Kendrick can’t help but feel a renewed personal connection to Buck O’Neil, his friend, mentor and the driving force behind a shared dream.
Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum since 2011, is on the road a lot these days in his role as an educator, fund-raiser, raconteur and inspirer-in-chief. He’s a driven man in his desire to advance the vision of O’Neil, the late Kansas City and Negro Leagues’ treasure who helped make the museum a reality in 1990.
“I know how proud Buck would be of everybody keeping this museum healthy and whole,’’ Kendrick said. “He would be giddy. He would be smiling from ear to ear. I know we’ll feel his presence, as I always do. I tell people all the time, ‘I know Buck is looking over my shoulder.’ In many ways, he guides my footsteps.’’
Thursday afternoon in Kansas City, Kendrick’s feet will guide him to Kansas City’s Paseo YMCA, where he’ll welcome MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, MLBPA chief operating officer Xavier James, Royals owner John Sherman, former Royals second baseman (and current Jackson County, Mo., executive) Frank White, Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas, Missouri Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe and other dignitaries for a “National Day of Recognition.’’ On Friday and throughout the weekend, a new exhibit, “Black Baseball in Living Color,’ featuring the art of Graig Kreindler, will be open the public at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City’s historic 18th & Vine District.
In 1920, an organized league structure was formed under the guidance of Andrew "Rube" Foster — a former player, manager, and owner for the Chicago American Giants.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have made a
$1 million joint donation to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in conjunction with the 100th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Negro Leagues, it was announced Thursday in Kansas City, Mo.
Funds from the donation will be used to support the opening of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center, located at the Paseo YMCA -- the site of the Negro Leagues' formation in February 13, 1920.
“The men and women who played in the Negro Leagues are and forever will be part of our community of ballplayers,’’ said Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA. “They brought to our game levels of skill, passion and integrity under the most challenging of circumstances that both inspired and entertained generations of fans in the decades before and after integration. Their legacy should be celebrated and never forgotten.”
On Saturday, June 27th, all 30 MLB clubs will commemorate the centennial celebration. MLB players, managers, coaches and umpires will wear a symbolic Negro Leagues 100th anniversary logo patch during all games.
Bob Kendrick & Tony Clark, recipient of the 2016 Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award