The Negro Leagues Museum: Class in the face of bigotry

7 07 2016
Buck O'Neill is an outrageous omission from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. But he gets proper respect at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Buck O’Neill is an outrageous omission from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. But he gets proper respect at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

At the entrance to the museum, Kansas City baseball icon Buck O'Neil watches over a field of statues of the Negro Leagues' greatest.

At the entrance to the museum, Kansas City baseball icon Buck O’Neil watches over a field of statues of the Negro Leagues’ greatest.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is more than a tribute to ballplayers who were cheated of the full glory they deserved. It’s also a reminder of how ugly this nation can be.

I probably waited too long to visit the museum. My mother lives in the Kansas City area, and most of my trips there have flown past swiftly with visits to Mom, present-day baseball games and barbecue dinners. I’d always leave with regrets and good intentions to visit the museum next time I was in KC. But I think I visited at exactly the right time: a time when too many people in this country are again openly practicing and embracing bigotry.

This is going to be a post about the museum and not about politics. But if you think America needs to be made “great again,” and you’re thinking it was great any time before 1947, you need to visit this museum soon.

If you can visit this museum without being outraged at the cruelty and bigotry of racial segregation, and ashamed that our country tolerated it so long, you simply don’t have a conscience. But the museum is still an uplifting experience. It’s the story of people who loved playing ball and relished life, even in the face of such bigotry. It’s astounding that people who actively practiced the bigotry or passively tolerated it were so profoundly mistaken about who was inferior.

This news story about a baseball game between a Negro League team and a Ku Klux Klan team is just sickening. Please read the story.

This news story about a baseball game between a Negro League team and a Ku Klux Klan team is just sickening. Please read the story.

Northerners who regard bigotry as a Southern practice need to visit the museum. Major league ball wasn't even played in the deep South when it was segregated.

Northerners who regard bigotry as a Southern practice need to visit the museum. Major league ball wasn’t even played in the deep South when it was segregated. Even in Northern towns with no whiff of major-league ball, bigotry thrived.

Negro League players who didn't even enjoy freedom in their home country fought in World War II.

Negro League players who didn’t even enjoy freedom in their home country fought in World War II.

Black players in Latin American leagues enjoyed freedoms denied to them at home.

Black players in Latin American leagues enjoyed freedoms denied to them at home.

Read these quotes, then consider that the award for sports writers in the Baseball Hall of Fame is named for Spink.

Read these quotes, then consider that the award for sports writers in the Baseball Hall of Fame is named for Spink.

As a journalist, I found the display on black sports writers interesting (and a valuable reminder of journalism's own shameful history of bigotry).

As a journalist, I found the display on black sports writers interesting (and a valuable reminder of journalism’s own shameful history of bigotry).

Earlier posts on segregation and racism in baseball

Hall of Fame’s ‘Pre-Integration Era’ Committee perpetuates segregation

Black and Latino players in the Baseball Hall of Fame were nearly all automatic selections

Changing standards for the Baseball Hall of Fame always favor white players

Comparing borderline white Hall of Famers with black and Latino contenders

Few teams integrated as slowly or reluctantly as the Yankees

 

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16 07 2016
A baseball trip filled with family, friends, food and fun | Hated Yankees

[…] After visits to Mom, we headed to the historic 18th and Vine district for my belated first visits to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum (I posted separately about the Negro Leagues Museum). […]

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25 07 2016
Baseball Hall of Fame changes its absurd (and racist) ‘Era Committees’ | Hated Yankees

[…] the big mistake from this era remaining to correct is Buck O’Neil, snubbed in the final Negro Leagues election. O’Neil is more deserving than any player from […]

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