Weekend arts and culture: A sports museum’s revival

The recent odyssey of the Negro Leagues Museum is the subject of this terrific piece in The New York Times last weekend by Nate Taylor, who writes about president Bob Kendrick’s return to the Kansas City institution and its greater state of financial health.

Kendrick left the fold following the 2006 death of the legendary Buck O’Neill, whose shadow other museum officials really wanted to escape.

negroleaguesmuseumlogoBut in 2009, the museum lost $300,000, and last year Kendrick (who avidly Tweets his passion at @nlbmprez) came back after a 13-month hiatus and guided the non-profit organization to its healthiest profit in years.

When the Major League All-Star game came to Kansas City last July, the museum also received a boost in visitors and continues to be busy with other tie-ins.

Here’s a Kansas sportswriter’s impressions of a recent trip to the museum, and the hometown Royals last weekend paid homage to the Negro Leagues by donning Kansas City Monarchs jerseys for a home game against the Washington Nationals, who were gussied up as the Homestead Grays.

Kendrick has been endlessly resourceful and energetic since coming back, trying to spread the museum’s reach beyond its downtown Kansas City location. As one example, the museum made recommendations for pieces included in the recent “Baseball as Art: A Negro League Retrospective” exhibit during the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C.

In Little Rock, “Shades of Greatness: Art Inspired by Negro Leagues Baseball” is on exhibit until Dec. 9 at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Kendrick also has been working with a group in Birmingham that wants to establish a Negro League Museum there. The Birmingham City Council has pledged $400,000 toward the $2 million museum project, which would adjoin the city’s new minor league baseball stadium. (In May I wrote about a new book chronicling an integrated Birmingham Barons team during the height of the Civil Rights movement.)

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I learned researching this post that there’s something called the Center for Negro League Baseball Research, founded by Dr. Layton Revel and based in Dallas. One of its primary missions is to collect as much primary research material it can. Since its founding in 1990, the center says it has located 500 former Negro Leagues players whose whereabouts were unknown.

The collection of photographs alone is worth a deep visit to its website, which also contains a link to its online research library, as well as other traditional museum collection pieces. There’s also a small permanant exhibit located at the Legends of the Game Museum at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, where the Texas Rangers play.

When he was still writing for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Wright Thompson (now of ESPN.compenned this full-length profile of Revel, a Negro Leagues veteran from its earliest times.

The Society for American Baseball Resarch also has a Negro Leagues Research Committee.

Read how a young Red Sox fan dug into the Negro Leagues past for his own tribute, and how a Negro Leagues historian joined his research subjects on a recent visit to the White House.

These are just a couple of examples that help explain why the Bob Kendricks and Layton Revels of the world do what they do, and with such utter joy and devotion.

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