Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Walking Among Legends by George Devine, Jr.


By George Devine, Jr.
Fox Sports Radio for Love of the Game Productions

KANSAS CITY, MO–A couple of weeks ago, when the Bay Area’s John Madden joined the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, the coach turned commentator and pitchman suggested the busts of the enshrined talked to each other at night. Friday, when I visited Kansas City’s Negro League Baseball Museum, I wondered if legends who occupy a special place in the history of America’s pastime also converse after the visitors and the lights go out.

And like John Madden suggested during his acceptance speech in Canton, I also suspected these legends cast in bronze might even play against one another. At the Negro League Baseball Museum, the legends actually take their respective positions on the diamond. Satchel Paige stands the tallest, right smack in the middle of the diamond, ready to read the signal from his catcher Josh Gibson while Cool Papa Bell trolls left field. Any imaginative baseball fan must wonder if they switch positions at night, maybe take turns standing in against Paige.

Click below for more!Beyond the left field wall of this commemorative field of dreams you’ll find a series of lockers honoring the greatest Negro League players. In each locker you can see each player’s uniform hanging, his shoes and mitt ready to go, along with information about each legend. You’ve got to visualize this team of immortals getting ready around card tables, and passing the time in the middle of the room among all their lockers.

Just like the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, the Negro League Baseball Museum brings the game and its own perspective on American History to life. Beneath the chronology of the game, the museum features a timeline showing what happened in America and specifically to Black America during that same timeframe. Many of the Negro Leagues’ stars received the call from Uncle Sam in both wars to serve in the segregated armed forces. And club owners and fans grappled with some of the games best fighting the Nazis and the Japanese instead of pitch-after-pitch on a 3-2 count!

And if you think labor troubles in baseball are a recent development, Paige himself played a huge role in one of the greatest free agent moves in baseball lore. In the 1930’s, Dominican President and dictator for life, Generalissimo Trujillo felt pressure from his political rivals. Trujillo believed if his political rival’s baseball team beat his on the field, then he might lose power. So Trujillo reached out to Paige, and hired him to be, player-general manager. The offer included a stipend to each player which exceeded his wages in the States. Paige then hired Gibson and several of his Pittsburgh Crawfords teammates to play for Team Trujillo. The winner-take-the-Dominican series came down to a seventh game. Armed men backing both sides surrounded the field, and Paige’s all-stars won it! Meantime back in Pittsburgh, without a roster, the Crawfords went out of business.

Tomorrow: How the Kansas City’s leaders got it the ballpark game right a generation ago!


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