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Negro League Baseball Museum gets boost from World Series in Kansas City

A Kansas City Monarchs jersey on display at

A Kansas City Monarchs jersey on display at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City on Oct. 27, 2015. Credit: Newsday/Robert Cassidy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has been around for 25 years -- 18 at its current location at the intersection of 18th Street and Vine.

But truth be told, this time of year used to be "pretty quiet around here," as curator Ray Doswell put it Tuesday.

Not anymore. The museum is on a roll, thanks to forces outside its control.

Museum president Bob Kendrick said it began with Kansas City hosting the All-Star Game in 2012, then got another boost in 2013 when the facility hosted a red-carpet celebration of the Jackie Robinson biopic "42," which increased interest in the subject.

"I'm thinking in '14, well, there's no national anything to wrap around so we are going to have to carry this bucket on our own this year," Kendrick said. "Then, all of a sudden our young Royals make it into the playoffs, make that magical run to the World Series.

"The world fell in love with the way they were playing baseball and so many drew the comparison to that style of play being from the Negro Leagues. So it put the spotlight back on the museum, obviously with Giants fans and national media in town looking for other baseball stories to tell while they're in town.

"So a lot of people were introduced to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and as a result we're seeing that felt through the turnstiles."

Now this. Not only are the Royals back in the Fall Classic, they are back in it against a team from New York. That means even more media members looking for baseball stories to tell.

"Yup, here we are again for round two of this thing," Kendrick said. "It's just as exciting as it was last year. The city is abuzz. This has always been a great baseball town. It's great to see our town excited about baseball again."

Doswell said the museum welcomes 50,000 to 60,000 visitors a year, with the numbers on the rise.

Customarily tours are self-guided, but Tuesday Kendrick led one himself for about 75 minutes, for a larger-than-usual group peppered with Mets hats along with Royals ones.

"Normally when I'm doing a tour I'm begging for money; that's my job," Kendrick said. This time he only was telling stories, inspired by the late Kansas City baseball institution Buck O'Neil, who died in 2006.

"Buck has been gone now for nine years. In my own way this helps keep him alive in my mind and in my heart."

One of Kendrick's central messages is that visitors should not come to the museum expecting a sad story but rather a triumphant one.

"This story is anchored in the ugliness of American segregation, which certainly was a horrible chapter in our country's history," he said. "But out of segregation rose this wonderful story of triumph and conquest, based on one simple principle: If you won't let me play with you I'll just create a league of my own. So it's not a sad, somber story. It is a celebration. It is the power of the human spirit to persevere and prevail."


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