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Negro League's 100th anniversary sharpens focus on triumph amid racial inequality

Negro League's 100th anniversary sharpens focus on triumph amid racial inequality

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Every time Bob Kendrick steps out of his office, the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum gets to walk through the past.

It's one of his favorite parts of the job, perusing hallways adorned with old cotton jerseys of the Homestead Grays and Kansas City Monarchs and Pittsburgh Crawfords; strolling by statues of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck O'Neil and other stars of a bygone era; delivering well-practiced dissertations to one visitor at a time.

"This story is so much more than just a baseball story," Kendrick said, his voice rising with emotion during a recent phone call from the museum in Kansas City, Mo. "This is a story of social injustice. It is a story of the civil rights movement. And it's a story of overcoming all of that adversity stacked against them."

He was hoping to amplify that message this summer, to celebrate the Negro Leagues' 100th anniversary with several months of museum-organized events. The novel coronavirus pandemic derailed those plans. But the recent protests over social inequality have given him another type of megaphone instead.

His museum, he said, doesn't just honor an often-overlooked history. It isn't simply memorializing teams born out of segregation and the players who helped dismantle it. Now more than ever, he finds the Negro Leagues' history reverberating today, connections to the present threaded within the story's every stitch.

"The social justice upheaval we're experiencing," he said, "it magnifies and quantifies the value of our museum to a greater extent."

Because every time Kendrick walks out of his office these days, he isn't just walking through the past. He sees lessons applicable to the present, and ways to build a better future in baseball and beyond.

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