On the Meaning of NLBM’s “Thanks a Million, Buck” Campaign

Friday was another beautiful day for and on at the Negro League Baseball Museum. So much so that even by his gleaming standards, NLBM president Bob Kendrick shed a certain surplus shine, which is still inducted into Buck O’Neill’s long-awaited National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In the wake of that victory last week (albeit 16 years after Buck’s death he was ousted from the polls by a special committee on the Negro Leagues), the NLBM focused its “thanks a million, Buck” campaign on the epicenter of one. began. The celebration was brought home from Cooperstown to Kansas City.

As announced by Kendrick, Buck’s new plaque will be moved here on August 12 as part of a salute over the Negro League weekend with the Royals, who will display the plaque at Kaufman Stadium on August 13 when they take on the Dodgers.

(To mark the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier with the then-Brooklyn Dodgers, the Dodgers will wear uniforms from the 1947 season; the Royals will be wearing a 1945 Kansas City Monarchs jersey to commemorate the momentous year played by Robinson in their On the way to making history.)

Friday’s event in honor of Buck also provided something that was conspicuously missing upon his induction into Cooperstown: the voice of Kendrick, who was born for many things, but Buck’s inductee to the Hall of Fame. was somewhat higher than that. While Buck’s niece, Angela Terry, provided a sweet family outlook, Kendrick is a dynamic speaker who could have provided deeper context for Buck’s establishment.

But Kendrick would at least have heard something if the Hall of Fame hadn’t canceled elements of the program because of the threat of bad weather. The cut included a more than four-minute video about Buck narrated by Kendrick.

“Charm. Charisma. Gentle soul…” It begins. “You can feel their spirit when you come here at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It wouldn’t have been the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum if it weren’t for Buck O’Neill’s tireless leadership.”

All of this brings us to another relentless and shrewd fundraising effort of NLBM as it seeks to use this moment to maintain its mission as Buck wanted it to be.

And, as we’ll return, in a way that Buck might not have imagined.

So… thanks a million, Buck, that’s it.

“Thanks a million for the humility,” Kendrick said. “A million thanks for the gentleness and kindness he displayed at all times. A million thanks for the smiles and laughter and the songs. A million thanks for teaching us about the heroes of the Negro Leagues. …”

And more than a million thanks, he hopes, to a concept based on the idea of ​​giving a million or more people a dollar—”at least a dollar,” Kendrick added quickly and subtly—thanksMillionBuck. Joining dot com.

“We want you all to be at least one in a million,” he said, “celebrating someone who was really one in a million.”

The campaign’s most tangible goal is to raise at least $1 million for the Buck O’Neill Education and Research Center on the site of the Paseo YMCA, where the Negro League was founded in 1920.

That reason is important in itself, however, as the creation of something else may have been bubbling up here as well.

Speaking during the news conference, Kendrick said Target looms “just one aspect of the development that is on the horizon.”

“I’ve taken an oath of secrecy,” he said with a smile, “and you know I can’t keep a secret.”

Kendrick has long dreamed of building a new NLBM, it should be noted. But so far, it’s calmed down before a thing of first things… like, in fact, the Buck O’Neill Education and Research Center that was catastrophically ruined in 2018.

After the news conference, I hunted down and asked Kendrick to elaborate on the secret. He put it this way:

“Well, it’s no secret that we outgrew our current home,” he said. “And that’s prompting us to explore the possibilities of growth now.”

In fact, its need for more space and modernization is clear, as Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Costas inadvertently reiterated last week in Cooperstown: “Square foot for square foot, (NLBM) is as good as it gets.”

He didn’t say it needed more square footage.

But … does.

The first wave of this campaign, which will take another level at the Buck O’Neill Hall of Fame Induction Gala on November 12, a day after the 111th anniversary of Buck’s birth, may have been the foundation or catalyst for that vision. ,

Over the past few weeks, Kendrick has largely reconciled the mixed feelings that he didn’t recognize Buck in 2006 and has even come to the point that it’s time to more in some ways. correct.

Like the rest of us, apparently he would have preferred that Buck lived to see it.

But part of Kendrick’s thought process has been that because it went on as it was, we saw the most indelible glory from Buck, whose grace following Kendrick considers one of the most selfless (and uplifting) acts in the history of the sport.

Then we honored him in the Hall of Fame with a life-size statue that greets everyone who visits, and the Hall of Fame added his name to Major League Baseball’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Perhaps the biggest reason Kendrick sees it this way, though, is that any recognition Buck ever expected was to enhance the NLBM cause.

If Buck was an “American treasure,” as Costas put it last week, his living, breathing reflection was the museum. Its everyday pursuit is essentially the same as what Buck did 16 years ago in Cooperstown, when he spoke on behalf of 17 former Negro League players and contributors being honored posthumously.

So that all this is remembered.

So that the important and compelling history, including its place in the history of civil rights, is not forgotten.

“The museum is a national attraction and a huge asset to what we bring to our city,” said Kathy Nelson, president of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Visit Casey. “Its cultural and historical value can never really be overstated.”

Like Buck, whose autobiography was called “I Was Right on Time” and whose legacy is NLBM… the two concepts are now merging in a new way.

You could call it fatalistic, as Kendrick thought of it, or you could call it poetic.

But just as the NLBM needed it most after the pandemic, which not only sabotaged a one-year 100th anniversary celebration but a monumental fundraising opportunity, the door for Buck’s election to the hall was unexpectedly reopened. Revealed.

And with that came a new opportunity to tell Buck’s story, as Kendrick intends to expand through multiple forums over the coming weeks.

with and HePerhaps a new frontier will come on the horizon for the museum as we know it.

stay tuned. And in the meantime…

“When we say every penny counts,” Kendrick said, “we mean it.”

In this case, specifically in the name of a Buck.

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Wahe Gregorian has been a sports columnist for The Kansas City Star since 2013, after 25 years in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He has covered a wide spectrum of sports including 10 Olympics. Wahe was an English major at the University of Pennsylvania and earned his master’s degree in Mizzou.

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