Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO, had big plans for celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of baseball’s Negro Leagues. He was the driving force behind an effort that would have had all 30 major league teams, for the first time, participate in a salute to the Negro Leagues in an unprecedented show of solidarity. The “Tip Your Cap” campaign originally was tied to the celebrations with teams, players, and fans in those 30 stadiums that, at some point during the game, would tip their cap in honor of the Negro leagues.
“In baseball, there’s nothing more honorable you can do than a simple tip of the cap,” said Kendrick.
Then COVID-19 put the baseball season on hold.
Kendrick was desperate to find a way to salvage the centennial celebration. That’s when he thought of a virtual Tip Your Cap campaign. A few friends who liked the idea agreed to help him. It took them two weeks to pull together the monthlong campaign, which runs from June 29 through July 23. The campaign was a hit right off the bat. Outside of the fact that it’s a warm-hearted, positive activity amid chaos, people can easily participate by submitting a photo or video of themselves tipping their cap in honor of the Negro Leagues and email it to [email protected] or post a tribute on social media with the hashtag #tipyourcap2020. Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter have all recorded video tributes, as well as civil rights hero Rachel Robinson, baseball legend Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Billie Jean King, Tony Bennett, and Bob Costas, and many more. NASA Astronaut Christopher Cassidy even joined in the online celebrations from the International Space Station.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Celebrates 30 Years
But the centennial isn’t the only celebration happening this year for the Negro Leagues. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is the only one of its kind nationwide and celebrating 30 years in 2020. When it opened in 1990, no one gave it a chance.
“Here at historic 18th and Vine, there was nothing. It was like a lot of urban communities. It had died. It had been left abandoned,” said Kendrick. “Everybody thought we were crazy. But basically, it was the infinite wisdom of my dear friend, the late great, John Buck O’Neil, who said, ‘This is where we will build this museum. This is where the origins of the Negro Leagues took root. And we will build this museum here. And in doing so, we will help resurrect what was once this very proud, prominent community.'”
O’Neil was right. The museum has changed the landscape of the community. The same thing that the Negro Baseball league did for urban communities across the countries, the NLBM has done for Kansas City.
“It was never self-serving. It was always about the greater good. And that’s something to appreciate,” said Kendrick.