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Baseball’s Celebration Of The Negro Leagues Made More Poignant As The Royals Play In Minneapolis

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Greg Echlin
/
KCUR 89.3
A memorial for George Floyd at 38th St. and Chicago in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Kansas City Royals are playing at Target Field, about four miles from where George Floyd was killed.

When the Kansas City Royals arrived in Minnesota late Wednesday night, the impact of where the team would spend the next five days sunk in right away with hitting coach Terry Bradshaw.

“Things go through your mind. You know this is where the George Floyd incident happened,” says Bradshaw, who is Black and in Minneapolis for a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins.

Major League Baseball, during all Sunday games, plans to formally recognize the Negro Leagues, which were founded 100 years ago in Kansas City. All players, managers and umpires will wear a Negro Leagues 100th anniversary patch on their uniforms.

The Royals are playing at Target Field, not far from where Floyd was killed as a police officer knelt on his neck.

On the Royals off-day, Thursday in Minneapolis, Bradshaw woke up for an early morning walk near the downtown hotel where the Royals are staying.

“It’s way different than coming here any other time in August,” says Bradshaw who’s in his third season as the Royals hitting coach. “There’s not a lot of people out. It’s unfortunate that that had happened, but for me it’s doing things to move forward to make this country a better place.”

The founding of the Negro Leagues at the Paseo YMCA in 1920 is seen as a step toward social change, even before Jackie Robinson finally broke MLB’s color line in 1947.

MLB’s celebration was originally scheduled for June 27 before the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the first half of the baseball season. But Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the 18th and Vine district, offered his perspective on the Royals playing in Minneapolis this weekend.

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Greg Echlin
Bob Kendrick is the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

“There is something, some might say, ironic. Others might say poetic given the fact that Kansas City is the birthplace of the Negro Leagues,” says Kendrick.

Kendrick adds that the museum, which re-opened in June after the pandemic caused it to close its doors, not only tells the story of the Negro Leagues through the lens of balls and strikes but also as an outlet for social change.

“It’s the one thing I do embrace throughout everything that has gone on over these last several months that we’ve been dealing with, this level of social injustice that’s really reminiscent of the 1960s again,” says Kendrick.

The best way to progress in Bradshaw’s words? “It’s to respect others and have empathy for others.”

That message is being conveyed this weekend throughout Major League Baseball.

The Royals will recognize the Negro Leagues’ 100-year milestone at Kauffman Stadium on a date that has yet to be determined.

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