Kansas City Baseball

Continuing on our day in Kansas City we decided that since the Boston Red Sox were in town and we’re from Boston (though only one of us is a Sox fan…and it’s not me) that we would take in a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium. But as far as baseball goes, the Royals aren’t the only “game” in town. Before our evening at the ballpark we made a stop to learn about an oft-neglected history of the sport.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a showcase for the (mostly) unknown talents that passed through the Negro Leagues from the late 1800’s to the early 1960’s. It was founded in 1990, growing from a small, one room office to the 10,000 square foot space that it occupies now.

An important point about the museum’s purpose can be found on its website:

Often the museum is referred to as the “Negro Leagues Hall of Fame” or “Black Baseball Hall of Fame” and various names. It is important to the museum that we not be referred to as such. The NLBM was conceived as a museum to tell the complete story of Negro Leagues Baseball, from the average players to the superstars. We feel VERY strongly that the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, NY, is the proper place for recognition baseball’s greatest players. The Negro Leagues existed in the face of segregation. Baseball’s shrines should not be segregated today. Therefore, the NLBM does not hold any special induction ceremonies for honorees. As space allows, we include information on every player, executive, and important figure. However, we do give special recognition in our exhibit to those Negro Leaguers who have been honored in Cooperstown.

As was the case on a few other spots along the trip, the museum did not allow for photography, so the only picture I took was of the lobby as you enter.

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As I blog this nearly a year later (yes, I’m a slacker), I find it would be impossible for me to do this museum justice. On future road trips (we’ll have to do the southern states at some point), I’ll bring along a notebook to all of my stops to record my thoughts in the moment, but since I can’t go back in time to do that on this trip, I’m left with only vague memories when trying to write about places I couldn’t take pictures.

I recall really liking the setup of the museum. A movie, They Were All Stars, set in a bleachers area, tells the story of many of the players and is narrated by the incomparable James Earl Jones. The museum itself is laid out in time-line fashion chronicling nearly 100 years of African American and baseball history. It was a fascinating place to visit and a fabulous tribute to those who played the sport without the credit or fame of their white counterparts.

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the Field of Legends. 10 bronze statues of players who have been honored in Cooperstown are positioned on a baseball diamond. I found this picture of it online at Trip Advisor:

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The players on the field are Rube Foster, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Pop Lloyd, Judy Johnson, Ray Dandridge, James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell, Oscar Charleston, Leon Day, Martin Dihigo, and “Buck” O’Neil

The link to Buck O’Neil’s page on the Hall of Fame website leads to information about the Buck O’Neil lifetime achievement award:

The Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors not more than once every three years to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil. The Award, named after the late Buck O’Neil, was first given in 2008, with O’Neil being the first recipient.

I went back to our visit at Cooperstown at the beginning of our road trip and found this photograph that I took of a bronze statue of O’Neil with an infographic about his eight decades long association with baseball.

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Those are some of the highlights of our visit to the NLBM. Feel free to read more about the current exhibits on the Museum’s Website.

Our afternoon of baseball learning morphed into an evening checking out Kauffman Stadium. We were able to walk right up to the ticket window and get pretty great seats right up over home plate. It was a chilly September night, as evidenced by this concession change:

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Note the carousel in the picture above. As is my ritual when entering any new ballpark (this was my tenth), we did a lap around the park to see what there was to see. The outfield had lots of activities for kids – batting cages, rides, a playground, even mini-golf. I’m not sure how I felt about the number of things kids and their families could be doing instead of watching the game. We kept on moving.

The park had the typical bronze statues denoting notable Royals and this great water feature in the outfield made for cool viewing from either side. Here’s a shot from center field as the sun went down.

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After our exploration, we grabbed some hotdogs and headed up to our seats. A pretty great view for last minute tickets.

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Here’s another view of that water feature from the seats.

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It was a fun outing, but since we wanted to avoid being stuck in the parking lot, and were more than a little chilly, we decided to take off early. Ultimately the Royals ended up winning 7 to 1. We made a pit stop before heading back to Sriram’s friend’s house, which you can read about it in the upcoming “Eats and Treats” installment. Until then, see you next time!

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From August 12 – October 15, 2014 my husband and I traveled the northern United States in my Honda Civic. Cross Country Civic was started (and will eventually be completed) to document our cross country adventure. All comments and questions welcome.

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“Is This Heaven?”

“It’s Iowa.”

In 1999, I went on a quest to watch a bunch of baseball movies I hadn’t yet seen. I watched Pride of the Yankees (“Phoebe, the guy WAS Lou Gehrig. Didn’t you kind of see it coming?”), Eight Men Out (a personal favorite), Bull Durham, and The Natural (having already seen other baseball gems, such as the hysterical Major League and the wonderful Sandlot, among others)

Eventually, I made it round to Field of Dreams. As movies go, it’s a bit of a slow one. Non-fans have been known to call it boring. Its most famous line is nearly always misquoted (the line is, “If you build it, HE will come,” not THEY). And the reality is, it’s not so much about baseball. But that’s actually what makes it so great. The story of family, redemption and forgiveness, of believing in the unbelievable and not giving up, is one that has touched many a movie goer for the last 25 years. With it being the 25th Anniversary of the film, I knew that little ballpark in the cornfield out in Dyersville, Iowa was a must stop for this road trip.

There are two ways into the Field of Dreams Movie Site. One way is pretty much right off the main road. The other, through a maze of unpaved dirt and gravel roads cutting between cornfields in the middle of nowhere. We were lucky enough to have taken the road through the corn, a far more magical journey in. We’d been in the Great Lakes area for 8 days, and then spent some time in the city. The scenery in Iowa was a welcome change. We found ourselves surprisingly drawn to it.

When we arrived at the farm we noticed one of the “Black Sox” sitting at a nearby picnic table, chatting with a few people. Moments later he would vanish. A bus was coming down the road, and soon enough he would emerge from the corn and greet them.

Before the site was inundated with tourists, I stepped behind home plate and took a picture of the famous field (though I couldn’t get a full shot)…

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…and then another from third base with the white house (different from the movie only in that it’s missing the porch swing) in the background.

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It turned out it wasn’t the bus he waiting for, so in the meantime he was available to chat and play. His name was Frank Dardis. Frank, a local guy, portrayed one of the ghost players in the original movie 25 years ago. He now greets tour buses and gives little talks. He signs autographs, and hands out old call sheets from the movie (with his name featured not quite as prominently as the likes of Kevin Costner and Ray Liotta). And he plays ball. Here’s Frank emerging from the corn.

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He was really sweet, and it was such a fun, unexpected touch to the visit. We played ball for a while. First Sriram pitched to me for a bit, and then later Frank did (I got one decent hit, and whiffed a bunch of others – need to keep my eye on the ball). We sat in the bleachers, the ones that are still carved with “Ray Loves Annie” and cheered on others as they played.

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We stayed for nearly an hour, reading up on the history of the movie, how the site was selected, how the corn almost didn’t grow, and how all these years later, the field still draws baseball-loving tourists from near and far. We also bought some memorabilia and learned that interestingly enough, the costs of upkeep come solely through concessions (admission is free). The studio has no part in keeping the site open; in fact, the farm has to pay royalties to the studio for the rights to the name/story.

But I’m glad that they have opted to keep things alive there in Dyersville as it’s a magical place. If you ever find yourself nearby, be sure to go explore a little bit of heaven.

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