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To kickoff Black History Month the Kansas City Royals announced earlier this week that admission would be free for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum all month in honor of Black History Month. The Negro Leagues had major talent like Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, John “Buck” O’Neil, Cool Papa Bell, and more. Mr. O’Neil actually helped open the original small, one room NLBM in 1991 then in 1997 he helped open the now 10,000 sq ft museum that is located in the historic Vine District in Kansas City.
In the 1900s, Baseball was America’s favorite pastime activity. However, due to Jim Crow laws and racism – black players were not allowed to play in Major League baseball. The Negro League started at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City in 1920 by Andrew “Rube” Foster and other peers who were kept out of the MLB. The Negro League was so popular that Black Churches would adjust their service time so that people could attend the games. The popularity of the Negro Leagues baseball was booming through the 1940s until the integration of black players into the Major Leagues in the mid 1940s. According to the MLB website, the first commissioner of the league, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was one of the main factors keeping black players out of MLB and his death in 1944 helped open new doors for black players.
Jackie Robinson is the first African-American baseball player to play in Major League Baseball and integrate the league. Robinson received an offer from the Kansas City Monarchs while playing in college in 1945. The movie ‘42’ highlights Robinson’s integration and the abuse, both mentally and physically, he and his family went through as he pushed to break the color barrier on and off the field. He would not be allowed to stay in the same hotels as his white counterparts or eat where they ate at. Robinson endured a lot but changed history forever. He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and made his National League debut on April 15, 1947 and was the Dodgers first baseman. Robinson made the baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 and was able to enjoy his HOF career before passing in 1972. April 15th is now recognized as ‘Jackie Robinson Day’ in the MLB and all players/umpires wear 42 to honor of Robinson’s debut.