On April 26, a group of Loras students and faculty attended a ball game on the third floor of the ARC. They welcomed Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick who walked them through almost 40 years of honest and great ball play.
As part of the Francis J. Noonan School of Business Speaker Series, Kendrick spent the day touring various sports management classes in Sports Government and visited with students from the black student union, baseball team, the Boys & Girls Club in Dubuque.
A good storyteller, Kendrick’s lecture consisted mainly of highlighting major players that rose from the Negro Leagues during the peak of play between 1920-1960. These included Andrew “Rube” Foster, Oscar Charleston, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, John “Buck” O’Neil, and Kendrick’s favorite Josh Gibson.
“The goal here was to educate a different audience … on how the Negro Leagues changed Major League baseball and how it had an impact on America,” said senior Brian Wulf, the student ambassador for the faculty board of the School of Business.
The mood for the event, despite underlying heavier topics, was a light one centered more on storytelling and the celebration of America’s favorite pastime than anything else. Kendrick, who had started as a volunteer at the Negro League Baseball Museum before moving up to his current position, would launch into both stats and character highlights of each of the players he mentioned in addition to their lasting effects on the future of baseball in this county.
“The story of the Negro leagues is not an African American Story, it is an all American story … it is a story about pride, courage, perseverance, and determination,” said Kendrick. “(It was a) league born out of segregation that brought about major social change.”
The conversation then took a natural turn to Jackie Robinson, a recognizable name definitely related to the topic at hand. The relation, though, was one not often talked about.
“They (the major leaguers) did everything imaginable to break Jackie but Jackie did not break,” said Kendrick. “It wasn’t just a part of the civil rights movement; it was the start of the civil rights movement … (it got) the ball of social progress rolling in our country.”
This connection between the familiar name and the new ideas Kendrick was bringing to the table about the Negro Leagues was a powerful one, sharing “so many stories that have never been told” as Kendrick put it.
“Having a different perspective and being able to educate this particular audience on the Negro League, on something that might not get a whole lot of national attention or something that not many people know about was just a great opportunity,” said Wulf.