The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., is dedicated to preserving the history of African-American baseball, when black players were prohibited from joining the major league teams. (Mark Taylor/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Photo: Mark Taylor/TNS
Photo: Mark Taylor/TNS

Negro Leagues Museum sees global 'outpouring of love' after vandalism

In recent days, Hy-Vee presented the NLBM with a $20,000 check for sales of Amos Otis bobbleheads and the Royals donated $26,000 from proceeds of game-worn uniforms from the Negro Leagues salute in May.

All of which has buoyed NLBM President Bob Kendrick as the precious entity over which he presides tries to move through what he calls the "darkest day" in recent memory for the museum:

On June 22, vandals cut a water pipe in the Buck O'Neil Research and Education Center in the former Paseo YMCA Building. That resulted in what Kendrick says is more than $500,000 in demolition, cleanup and restoration expenses that insurance at least initially has declined to cover.

But something else has uplifted Kendrick: the sheer number of people forming an "outpouring of love" from all over the country, not to mention Canada and Japan and elsewhere, from grassroots fundraisers to consoling daily offers of help.

That hasn't erased the malicious act. But it casts it in a different light and alters the signature of the story, if not the narrative itself.

"Just when you're ready to give up on people and wave the white flag, you see the goodness rise above the bad — and you see it in full blossom," Kendrick said Tuesday after welcoming another wave of visitors. "There's always been more good than bad, but sometimes you have to be reminded of that when bad things happen."

The more he thinks about it, the more he appreciates how this response has some parallels to the devastating day in 2006 when he had to deliver the news to O'Neil that he wasn't among those selected in a special vote to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"There were so many other people outraged about it that Buck didn't have to fight: They fought for him," he said, recalling the inspiration of O'Neil "basically wrapping his arms around all of us and saying, 'It's OK.'

"And now we see that same kind of inspiration this time, coming from people around the country who say, 'It's OK, we got you.' "

This, despite not yet even asking for help as he first seeks to exhaust every effort with insurance.

The NLBM believed it had umbrella insurance coverage on the building at 18th and The Paseo, a block from the main museum. But the insurance company says it doesn't apply there.

"We've gone back to try to and get reconsideration," he said. "Still waiting on the outcome."

Devotees of the museum, though, haven't wanted to wait.

So here was Boulevard Brewing Co., hosting a Bingo for Buck affair to help "get this Kansas City treasure back in working order."

In Chicago, Kiki Carrasco, a Twitter follower of Kendrick's, organized an auction and fundraiser at Nisei Lounge that raised a few thousand dollars.

From Florida, the Ted Williams Museum donated $10,000 and asked "all fans to go to the Negro Leagues Museum homepage and help assist in the cleanup effort to get this wonderful Museum project back on schedule."

Out of Washington, D.C., Joe Madison, who likes to donate money from his "swear jar" for every time he curses, recently had Kendrick on his Sirius XM Satellite Radio show.

"When I was on the radio show, obviously I was encouraging him to keep cussing," Kendrick said, laughing. "Because now you're cussing for a cause."

More PG-rated, Kendrick knows of Little League teams raising funds for the cause and an elementary school putting together a "buck for Buck" fundraiser.

In fact, Kendrick hardly can list all the encouragement and donations, small and large, he's learned of through his 24,000-plus Twitter followers.

One recent example was posted by Tim Burnell, whose bio says he's in Franconia, N.H. Burnell said he raised $365 with a birthday fundraiser, his office voted to donate $1,000 from its emergency fund "and Mrs. gave me thumbs up for a personal donation. So ... progress. C'mon."

C'mon, indeed: You can donate to the museum at https://www.nlbmdonate.com/.

"These countless little stories, these little grass roots movements both locally and around the country, are as inspiring as anything I've ever dealt with," said Kendrick, noting that any excess donations have been targeted for helping extend the number of complimentary admissions for youngsters, particularly urban kids, to experience the museum.

The reaction has helped Kendrick be "more Buck-like," as he likes to put it, thanks to a Buck-like effort by NLBM faithful to heal and focus on what can be done instead of what went wrong.

And it reiterates the importance of the museum's purpose, to keep alive this vital preservation of social history and Americana.

"It is one of the greatest stories of hope and one of the greatest stories of courage and determination and pride, I think, in the annals of American history," he said. "It fuels the possibilities, the endless possibilities, of what you can do if you put your heart, mind and soul to trying to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish. ...

"It's hard to be a steward of this story and kind of be crying woe is me because something didn't go your way. Because these athletes never did. You find a way out of no way."

With a little help from friends everywhere.

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