There is something synonymous about baseball, dads and sons.
The end of “Field of Dreams” always gets to me when Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) and his dad have a catch. The end of “The Natural” is the same way, with Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) tossing the ol’ baseball with his newfound son.
Maybe it’s because dad is the guy, in most instances, who introduces you to the game. He buys you your first mitt and teaches you how to throw in the back yard. Those are memories that last a lifetime.
Here I am, almost 39 years old, and those memories are still important to me. So when my dad retired a year ago and we decided to start an annual father-son trip, it was baseball that came to the forefront.
Last year was trip No. 1 and took us to Cooperstown, N.Y., to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and then through Pittsburgh to check out a Pirates’ game at PNC Park. It was a blast.
This year’s expedition was to Kansas City. We visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and watched the Royals battle the Toronto Blue Jays inside beautiful Kauffman Stadium.
The trip didn’t totally revolve around baseball. We went to the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, the Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum, the Jesse James Farm and Museum and toured Boulevard Brewing Company, but at the heart of it is baseball.
Baseball is intertwined with history and the evolution of society, and I think that’s why its history interests me so much. Maybe nothing epitomizes this more than the NLBM.
Established in 1990, it’s a privately funded, nonprofit museum dedicated to the history of African-American baseball. There are plenty of multimedia displays, photographs and memorabilia dating back to the 19th century and spanning into the 1960s when the Negro Leagues finally folded.
There is plenty on the plight of Jackie Robinson and what he meant to the civil rights movement in this country. The integration of baseball helped shape the civil rights movement and in many ways the 20th century by bringing the issues to the forefront of society through America’s pastime.
All of that is covered in great detail at the NLBM. It touches on much of the racism of the day and societal issues that transcended baseball.
As for the baseball aspect, it gives fans an opportunity to learn about some great players who weren’t allowed to play in the Major Leagues during their primes and some that never played in the MLB, period.
Players like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Pop Lloyd, Oscar Charleston, Buck Leonard, Rube Foster and Judy Johnson were either denied MLB access completely or barely played. Nonetheless, they are some of the best players ever to take the field and are glorified as the titans of the game like they should be at the NLBM. If you don’t know who these guys are, as a baseball fan you should.
It also delves into names we know, like Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks, who spent time in the Negro Leagues before becoming MLB stars.
It’s all thanks to Buck O’Neil, a longtime first baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs who was one of our most prominent and respected baseball historians and cheerleaders. Unfortunately, O’Neil passed in 2006, but it was his tireless work and passion that helped bring this magnificently educational and entertaining institution to life.
I recommend it for anyone who is a fan of baseball. Dad and I enjoyed our time there.
We also enjoyed our time at Kauffman Stadium. Opened in 1973, this beauty still holds its own today with more modern stadiums. The distinct crown in center field, which also works as a jumbotron for fans, is clearly visible from I-70 when driving toward Kansas City. The outfield fountains are a nice touch of unique aesthetics, too.
Recent upgrades to the stadium include the Royals Hall of Fame in left field. It was very informative about the franchise and how it came to fruition after the departure of the Athletics for Oakland.
I will warn you, Cardinal fans, the 1985 World Series trophy is on display with a full-length movie about the title run past St. Louis. It goes into detail about umpire Don Denkinger’s blown call at first base. It’s a little hard to stomach, but the museum is nice.
The most gratifying portion of the trip though was that I got to experience it with my dad. Next year we’re thinking Cincinnati for a Reds’ game and possibly Louisville, Ky., for a tour of the Louisville Slugger bat factory. We still have to work out the details, but wherever we go, I know I’ll be in good company.
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The answer to the July 10-11 AdVantage News sports trivia is the Chicago White Sox. Current Lewis and Clark Community College baseball coach Randy Martz pitched for the Chicago Cubs from 1980-‘82, winning 11 games in ‘82. He left the Cubs in ‘83 and went across town to the White Sox. He pitched in one game, throwing five innings in a start and getting a no decision.
Congratulations to Ken Schaake, who answered correctly and wins a $10 voucher off sales, parts or service at Jack Schmitt Chevrolet in Wood River.