07/08/12 5:27 PM ET
Negro Leagues Museum enjoys All-Star spotlight
By Vinnie Duber / MLB.com
The museum unveiled its new exhibit, "They Were All Stars," on Sunday with a news conference that included MLB and Royals brass, as well as a baseball legend.
The exhibit tells the story of the 20 players who played in the Negro Leagues and also went on to become Major League All-Stars. That list is a star-studded one that includes Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks. Combined at the museum with Bank of America's "Baseball: America's Game" exhibit, artifacts include Banks' bat and a signed seat from Wrigley Field, as well as one of Mays' jerseys and countless pictures of baseball legends.
"The exhibit is really an all-encompassing one," said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. "It has a lot different elements to it and, of course, the story of those 20 Negro Leaguers who broke barriers themselves, who showed that these athletes could play the game as well as anyone, as the centerpiece of this exhibition."
Gracing the entrance to the exhibit are six paintings that compare the legends of the Negro Leagues with All-Stars of today, including Satchel Paige and C.C. Sabathia, Josh Gibson and Ryan Howard and Oscar Charleston and Matt Kemp.
The All-Star Game's arrival in Kansas City has thrust the museum into the forefront, as fans from around the country have visited to experience this part of baseball history.
"It is our sincere hope that the Midsummer Classic will shine a spotlight on the museum, which provides fitting tribute to this important time in baseball history, and that everyone that comes here leaves with a greater understanding and appreciation of these great trailblazers," said Tom Brasuell, MLB VP of community affairs.
Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was on hand for the press conference, as was Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson.
The exhibit will remain on display at the museum until Sep. 9. It will then become a traveling exhibit, one of five the museum has put together.
"We understand that everybody can't come to Kansas City," Kendrick said. "We want you to come to Kansas City, but we understand that everybody can't come to Kansas City. This story is too powerful, too meaningful, too significant to leave isolated in Kansas City. We want the world to know about the Negro Leagues, this wonderful, rich piece of baseball and Americana, so we started creating traveling exhibitions to give them that access."
Sunday's event at the museum was the latest in a long line of community events the Royals and MLB have had a hand in during All-Star Week. Kevin Uhlich, the Royals' senior VP of business operations, spoke about the team's connection to the museum.
"We have a relationship with Bob Kendrick and the Negro Leagues museum. It's in our hometown, and it's kind of a hidden gem," Uhlich said. "I think the focus you get out of an All-Star Game is not only for the Royals and for the city, but for great projects like this. We hope that it's another jumpstart for the museum.
"The big piece and the big caveat for the team hosting the game is really the legacy money that's left over from the Home Run Derby. Some of the proceeds are given to the club, and we do various projects like this. This is just one of them. It is a very important project, very dear to us, and we really hope that you'll get a lot of fans and visitors that come to this."
The Royals have been on a whirlwind tour of the greater Kansas City area in recent days, but Kendrick's schedule has been nearly as busy with All-Star-related events.
"Crazy, but a good crazy," Kendrick said. "I haven't got that much sleep over the last few days, probably won't get that much from now until Tuesday. By the time it's all said and done, we're all going to be exhausted, but I'm hoping that it's going to be that kind of exhaustion -- satisfied exhaustion for a job well done.
"I am just thrilled with the visibility that the museum is getting. Certainly Major League Baseball and the Royals and the city have done a wonderful job of helping push the museum out front and center, and we're seeing the response as a result of that."
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. (EDT)/6:30 p.m. (CDT). ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.