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VIDEO: Blunt Celebrates Centennial of Negro Leagues Baseball

February 27, 2020

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo. ) spoke on the Senate floor to commemorate the Centennial of Negro Leagues Baseball.

The Negro National League was created in 1920 during a meeting of team owners at a YMCA in Kansas City, Missouri. Prior to 1920, teams barnstormed around the country playing whomever they could. The creation of the league brought some structure to the playing schedule, and other regional leagues were soon formed.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, which Blunt introduced, would direct the U.S. Treasury to mint a coin to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League.

After the U.S. Treasury has recouped all of its costs for designing and minting the coins, funds will be distributed to the National Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which was founded in 1990 in Kansas City.

Following are Excerpts of  Blunt’s Remarks:

“I want to talk today about Black History Month and specifically about Black History Month and baseball. This month marks the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the first successful organized league for professional African-American baseball players. February the 13th, 1920, a group of eight Midwestern team owners got together at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City, Missouri, to form the Negro National League.

“Before then these African-American teams had a lot of great players. They barnstormed around the country. They played sort of whoever they could and whenever they could.

“But in 1920, these eight owners got together and decided that everybody would benefit from more structure in the league and they established the league to see that we got that structure.

“In the first 10 years of the league, the Kansas City Monarchs won the pennant four times. The league thrived and other leagues were formed for African-American players in the South and in the East. Over the years, some of the greatest players in baseball played in the Negro Leagues. Jackie Robinson played there, Satchel Paige played there, Kansas City's own Buck O'Neil played there, many others that we would recognize who then became part of the Major League following Jackie Robinson. But lots of players you learn a lot about at the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City.

“Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City tells this story, and tells it well. And Madam President, they don't just tell the story of African-American organized baseball, but they really tell the story of a thriving community beyond that, that's an important part of our legacy. Obviously a more important part of our legacy is to bring everybody together. But in those years, around the time the Negro Leagues were formed, African-American communities in arts, in entertainment, in businesses were significant. Part of that story is told there as well. The hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues is an opportunity for us to talk about that.

“These leagues had great talent. In fact, the Pittsburgh Grays would play here in Washington half of the time. Half of their games, their so-called ‘home’ games, they played in Washington at Griffith Stadium where the Washington Senators played. And I don't think there's any argument that when the Grays played here, the African-American team, the Negro Leagues team played here, there was a greater crowd than there were when the Senators played and there was better baseball. These were great, exciting times in baseball, that’s well-told, I think, at the museum. …

“A Kansas Citian, who now represents Virginia in the Congress, Tim Kaine, and I are working together to commemorate the Centennial of the Negro Leagues with the minting of a new coin by the Treasury. Joined over in the House by Congressman Emanuel Cleaver from Kansas City, in my state of Missouri, and Congressman Steve Stivers from Ohio. … I think we'll get it passed very soon. And with any luck, we might even pass it right here in the next day or so during Black History Month.

“I want to recognize Bob Kendrick, who's the President of the National Negro Leagues Museum for his support, for encouraging us to see if we could make this coin a reality, and all he and his board have done to preserve the history of Negro Leagues baseball. Certainly, I've been glad to take my son, Charlie, to the museum, I go there with some frequency. A few years ago I encouraged Major League Baseball to have an event there when they were having the All-Star game at Kansas City. And I don't think there was a player who went to that event at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum that wasn't both impressed and touched by what they saw there.”

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