Last Saturday night, Derek Jeter made his first trip to the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City.
He apologized for not making it sooner. “I’ve always intended to come,” Jeter said after receiving the Oscar Charleston Award for his MVP-type season. “I’m glad I finally made it. This is very impressive and it’s something everyone should take the opportunity to experience.”
I’ve always had this romantic vision of traveling through Negro League cities by bus. Starting here in New York – home of the New York Black Yankees, the New York Cubans, the Brooklyn Eagles, the Brooklyn Royal Giants, the New York Gorhams, the New York Harlem Stars, the New York Lincoln Giants and the Lincoln Stars – I would wind through cities like Newark, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Birmingham, St. Louis and then on to Kansas City, the home of the Monarchs.
The Kansas City Monarchs won eight Negro American League championships, four Negro National League titles and two Negro League World Series crowns. Their stars – Cool Papa Bell, Buck O'Neil, Jackie Robinson, Turkey Stearnes, Hilton Smith, Bullet Joe Rogan, Ernie Banks, Elston Howard, Willard Brown and, of course, the great Satchel Paige – traveled mostly by bus. They crisscrossed the country playing baseball at the highest level.
The Negro Leagues Museum is a monument to greatness that wouldn’t have existed in a just society. That injustice left us with stories and legends of some of the finest baseball players ever.
Jeter is right. Everyone needs to experience that.