Skip to content

The Negro Leagues Museum is in grave danger. But perhaps there is now hope.

Oct 30, 2010, 5:48 PM EDT

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

UPDATE:  We received a comment from Dr. Raymond Doswell, interim director of the Negro Leagues Museum:

Let me explain to all of your readers that the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is NOT in “grave danger.” It does have many challenges, but is solvent, open for business, and not in turmoil.  I encourage all of you to come visit, join us on Facebook, or become a member.  I am as much of a “lifer” as any person associated with the organization, having been here 15 years helping shape the vision of the museum.  It will not go down on my watch.

Thank you, Dr. Doswell.  I hope Joe Posnanski’s concerns about the “grave danger” are overstated, and I hope that you are correct that the museum will remain viable.  And I join Dr. Doswell in encouraging people to become a member and do whatever they can to help support this vital institution.

9:30 A.M.: Back in late 2008 there was trouble and strife at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.  Buck O’Neil had died in 2006, and the struggle over who would succeed him as executive director had been raging on for some time.  O’Neil’s dying wish was that a man named Bob Kendrick would take over. He was the museum’s marketing director and had been O’Neil’s right hand man. According to many he had truly run the place for years.

The board went in a different direction, however, bypassed Kendrick and hired a man named Greg Baker. Baker was a longtime city employee, arguably well-connected, but not really all that connected with the Museum. He was hired for his alleged “strategic planning experience” and “entrepreneurial” approach to things. At the time of his hiring he was running the airport or something.  This split the board and really, really pissed off people like Jason Whitlock and Joe Posnanski. Here was Whitlock’s response at the time. Here is Posnanski writing about it the other dayI wrote about it at the time too:

Though I am not acquainted with the specific politics of the Negro Leagues Museum, the dynamic here is a familiar one: a Chamber of Commerce-style politico with many career stops along the way, lauded for his alleged “entrepreneurial” and “strategic planning” credentials is given a high profile job over a lifer from within the organization. Here, the passed-over lifer is a guy by the name of Bob Kendrick, who, according to Whitlock, was O’Neil’s right hand man and the guy who has truly run the place for years.

In my experience, the guy in Baker’s position usually crashes and burns within two years, mostly because “entrepreneurial credentials” aren’t all that applicable to a non-profit organization, and because no one really knows what the hell “strategic planning experience” really is. When the guy is eventually fired, the board then tries to get a do-over by hiring the guy in Kendrick’s position. Except that guy, having been passed-over for a lightweight, has since moved on and is no longer interested, leaving the whole organization in the lerch for about five years. In other words, it’s the organizational equivalent of signing Barry Zito.

Hey, guess what: the guy in Baker’s position crashed and burned within two years. Baker’s out.  And guess what else? According to the linked story, Kendrick has moved on, and is now running the Kansas City office for the National Sports Center for the Disabled. There’s no suggestion in the article that the Negro Leagues Museum can get him back either. People move on.

I’m not happy I was right about this. And I’m far more sad that Whitlock and Posnanski were correct that going with Baker was a bad move for the Museum, and all that they had feared has come to pass. I just visit the place once in a blue moon. Those guys and many, many others have invested their blood, sweat, money and tears in the Negro Leagues Museum and seeing Buck O’Neil’s vision for it ignored has undoubtedly been a wrenching experience. That vision wasn’t just about Kendrick either: it included an Education and Research Center, still unbuilt, that O’Neil felt was vital to the Museum’s future.  It all went away because the politico got the gig.

According to Posnanski, the Museum is now in “grave danger.”  Hopefully with Baker leaving, the ship can be righted. But it will need help to be righted. One way you can help is to visit it and tell others to do so.  Another way to help is to become a member.  I’m going to do so as soon as I hit “publish” on this post.  See if you can see clear to do the same.

  1. leez34 - Oct 30, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    You can tell from Posnanski’s (best sports writer alive; no offense Craig) that he is really broken up about this. His first book was about Buck O’Neil and he was certainly an inspiring figure.

  2. jgraening - Oct 30, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    I got to visit this wonderful museum last year and it was well worth it. This museum truly is a snapshot in time and is a historical part of baseball. While there I got to meet former player Jake Sanders who was more than gracious enough to tell us about his playing years and autograph baseballs for us. Well worth the price of admission to help this place survive.

  3. JBerardi - Oct 30, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    “Baker… was hired for his alleged “strategic planning experience” and “entrepreneurial” approach to things.

    Translation: “bloodless, uncaring careerist toolshed”.

  4. rdoswell - Oct 30, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    Let me explain to all of your readers that the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is NOT in “grave danger.” It does have many challenges, but is solvent, open for business, and not in turmoil. I encourage all of you to come visit, join us on Facebook, or become a member. I am Dr. Raymond Doswell, the interim President, and as much of a “lifer” as any person associated with the organization, having been here 15 years helping shape the vision of the museum. It will not go down on my watch.

    Dr. Raymond Doswell
    Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
    888-221-NLBM
    http://www.nlbm.com

    • ta192 - Oct 31, 2010 at 11:09 PM

      Isn’t this the sort of press release you see from companies shortly before they file Chapter Something or Other…

  5. Richard In Big D - Oct 30, 2010 at 6:44 PM

    I’ve only ever had the opportunity to visit the NLBM once. It was in July of 2002, and my then 8 year old son was with me. Two things stand out in my son’s memory: The bronze statues on the miniature field, one for the all-time best Nego Leaguer at each position. What a masterpiece! It was here that he became aquainted with Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell. The other thing he still vividly recalls is the recurring video loop showing “the Catch”, as well as the glove Mays was using at the time. For me it was meeting Buck O’Neill in the gift shop. We had a fairly lengthy talk with him. and rather than trying to sell us stuff (which we were buying anyway), he actually gave us a ball and a panoramic photo from the 1920 All-Star game. It was a magical experience for both of us, and I used all that was left in my shoullder throwing balls high and deep so that my boy could try and replicate “the Catch”. Do what you can to keep this place healthy..

  6. dasher521 - Oct 31, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    It doesn’t matter what team you are a fan of, it makes you a baseball fan. I hope all baseball fans will support the NLBM. I’m glad to hear they are not in dire straits, but I am sure they could use the support. Very sad that after the way Buck O’Neil tirelessly and posivitely support the game of baseball that he wasn’t enshrined on the HoF. Thanks, Craig, for opening some eyes!

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

All the trade deadline news to know
Top 10 MLB Player Searches