Negro Leagues Museum should be on every bucket list

By Michael Kinney

KANSAS CITY – I’ve spent a lot of time in Missouri. From four years of college to three years of my professional career, I’ve traveled many a mile of the Show Me State.

Just two years ago I visited a friend in St. Louis and spent a couple of days just exploring the city and museums downtown. Writing about museums and historical sites in every city I visit is one of my favorite pastimes.

But while in St. Louis, I realized that during my years in Missouri, there was one museum I had never visited and I was disappointed in myself for it. Despite spending serious time in downtown Kansas City, I had never been to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the mecca of black baseball.

That finally changed when I found myself back in Kansas City for Thanksgiving week. The first thing I did was head to the 18th and Vine District, which not only houses the Negro League Museum but also the Jazz Museum.

First of all, the district itself is on the rise. Once known for a high crime rate, it is has been revitalized. With the new business, condos and upscale apartments being built around the district, it has potential to be special once again.

“The 18th & Vine historic district was the center for black culture and life in Kansas City from the late 1800s-1960s,” the NLBM sates on its website. “It was the hub of activity for homeowners, business, jazz music, and baseball enthusiast. Just outside of the district stands the Paseo YMCA building, which was built as a black YMCA in 1914. It served as temporary home for baseball players, railroad workers, and others making the transition to big city life in the Midwest. It was here that the Negro National League was founded in 1920. Although the district and the YMCA building were becoming blighted by the 1980s, they were recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.”
I took a self-guided tour Negro League Baseball Museum. After a 15 minute film that was narrated by James Earl Jones, you are hit immediately with what life was like for African Americans in the 1800s. In fact, the entire tour is like walking through time on two separate paths. One that highlighted what was going on in the world and the other pointed out what was going on in black baseball at the same time and how they intersected.

There is so much information to consume, you have to give yourself time to go through it all. Small artifacts, posters, photos and amazing art work and statues are littered throughout the building.

Rube Foster, who founded the negro leagues in 1920, is lost to history in other baseball themed sites. But at the NLBM, he has a statue and tons of information on his life.

Other notable figures to get prominent attention included Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and ofcourse Jackie Robinson. But there were many players not well known who baseball fans have an opportunity to learn about about.

One of the best exhibits is a small film near the end of the tour of Buck O’Neal, who has gone down as the ambassador to not only negro league baseball but the overall game itself.

On a side note, I once met Mr. O’Neal at a Kansas City Royals game. One of my greatest regrets was not taking the time to interview him.

At the very end of the tour, the museum created a baseball field. There are statues of who they considered to be the best player in the history of the Negro leagues at each position. It’s an impressive moment to be standing on home plate next to the Gibson statues staring at Paige.

My one complaint is that the building wasn’t big enough. Even though the league last less than 40 years, there is so much historical information being packed into a small room.

But that is insignificant to how detailed and informative the entire museum was. It was well worth the wait.

Inconsistency plagues Thunder as they return home

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — The first part of the NBA season continues to be a roller coaster for the Oklahoma City Thunder. From winning six of their first seven games to dropping seven of their last 10, the revamped team has been anything but predictable.
Coming off Friday night’s overtime victory in Denver, the Thunder (9-8) completed a three-game road trip, their longest of the season so far. And they return home looking for answers for a variety of issues that seem to be hurting the team.
One of those is Oklahoma City’s inability to defend the 3-point line with any tenacity. In their last 10 games, they are allowing teams to shoot 42 percent from deep, which is the worst in the NBA during that span.
“That’s the next step that we have to take from a defensive perspective — the awareness, the understanding and the decision-making,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told NBA.com. “We’re doing a much better job of being in the right spots, but once we’re in that spot and have to get out to the 3-point line, there have been times we’ve been slow getting there or we’ve lost our man on the back side with exchanges. There have been times where we’ve given too much help.”
On Nov. 20, the Thunder allowed the Indiana Pacers to shoot 11 of 22 from 3-point range. Two nights later, the Los Angeles Lakers also knocked down 11 from behind the arc. Even in a win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Thunder allowed them to hit 11 3-pointers.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who has given up his share of uncontested 3-pointers, says it comes down to focus.
“It’s just being focused on when to help and when not to help,” Westbrook said, “having a real sense of urgency on that aspect to not give up so many threes.”
When Oklahoma City faced Detroit earlier in the month, 3-point shooting was not a problem. The Pistons won despite knocking down only 5-of-16.
In the Nov. 14 matchup, Detroit was also without the services of center Andre Drummond. When the Thunder and Pistons meet in Oklahoma City, Drummond will be in the lineup with his 14.9 points, 14 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.5 steals.
However, Detroit will not have guard Reggie Bullock after he suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee during Wednesday’s win over Miami.
“Reggie’s a pretty even-keel guy, so he’s fine outwardly,” coach Stan Van Gundy told Mlive.com. “But I know he’s frustrated, because he wasn’t ready to go at the beginning of the year and that cost him some time. And then he had worked his way back in the rotation. It’s just really unfortunate for him.”
The Pistons have already been missing guard Reggie Jackson with a fracture in his foot. The loss of Bullock weakens an already depleted Detroit backcourt.
The one piece of good news is that the Pistons expect to get Jackson back in early December. However, that doesn’t help them when Van Gundy looks down the Detroit bench to find a defender to put in front of Westbrook, who had another triple-double Friday.
But Van Gundy wants to see what type of mindset his Pistons can take on the road as they face a new round of adversity.
“That’s the kind of resilience we had a year ago. We haven’t necessarily had that all the time this year,” Van Gundy said. “It was really good to see. Now the challenge is to bring that same mindset and effort on the road. We’ve got four in a row on the road, all against good teams, all of them .500 or better. It’s going to be a really tough week — four games in seven days — it’s going to be difficult, so we’ve got to bring the same mindset and energy on the road.”

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