When Bob Kendrick talks about the trailblazing Black athletes who broke baseball’s color barrier, he focuses on their contributions to sport and society.
“Everyone likes to look at the Negro Leagues from the lens of hardship,” said Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Kendrick sees his institution as a celebration of Black excellence and athleticism. Last week, he spoke at a Black History Month Lunch and Learn at the Board of Education that was broadcast to KCPS staff and the community.
“This is history that is missing from our classrooms and textbooks,” KCPS Assistant Superintendent of Equity, Inclusion and Innovation Dr. Derald Davis said. “I’m proud to be part of a school district moving toward more culturally responsive curriculum.”
Kendrick said he wants the museum to be part of that curriculum. The NLBM is converting the historic Paseo YMCA into the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center in honor of the late, great Kansas City baseball legend.
“We’ve always felt there’s something significant about experiential learning,” Kendrick said. “Well, we’re building an interactive exhibit to explore the math and science of baseball. We’ll teach you what it’s like to hit Satchel Paige’s fastball at 105 miles per hour.”
Then Kendrick chuckled. Hardly anyone could hit Paige’s fastball. Although official Negro Leagues statistics are incomplete, Paige estimated he pitched more than 2,500 games, including 250 shutouts and at least 50 no-hitters.