Sunday, January 31, 2010

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum experiencing financial problems

For years Buck O'Neil held court for the legions of fans and enthusiasts that passed through the doors of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO. A walking billboard for the history of the Negro Leagues, Buck was part retired player, part ambassador and part humanitarian. Starting in 1990, he helped to build the museum from a small office in Kansas City to the 10,000-square foot cathedral that exists today.

When he passed in 2006, baseball and the museum lost it's biggest advocate for the greatness of the Negro Leagues. Without O'Neil, the voice became quieter and the message didn't resonate the same way with fans across the country. O'Neil tirelessly traveled the United States to spread the word not only about the likes of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, but those such as Hilton Smith, Willard Brown, "Wild" Bill Wright, Henry Kimbro and other Negro League stars who came along prematurely. For many, he was the living and breathing image of the passion that the Negro Leagues encompassed.

Now that there are only a handful of Negro Leaguers still alive, most of them over the age of 80, they are no longer able to travel the country the same way O'Neil did to connect with the public about the lore of the Negro Leagues. The lack of attention is having a profound effect on the attendance at the museum in Kansas City. As Doug Tucker of the Canadian Press reports, the NLBM is facing a $200,00 deficit, and may be on the verge of moving or closing if they cannot raise more funding.

This announcement is on the heels of the 10th Annual Legacy Awards, which honors Major League players in Kansas City with awards bearing the names of the Negro League greats of the past.


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