Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
in Kansas City.
Strike one: The recession, which is hurting museums all over the country, but the Negro League Museum, which runs largely on donations, took a huge hit this year thanks to a precipitous drop in licensing revenue. The museum has not finished its accounting for 2009, but one staffer told Associated Press
that it could be facing a deficit as large as $200,000.
Despite a $1 million donation from Julia Irene Kauffman, daughter of
the founder of the Kansas City Royals, the museum has postponed plans
to move to a new, larger home in the old YMCA building where Rube
Foster founded the Negro Leagues in 1920.
Strike two: Buck O'Neil passed away.
O'Neil was the great first baseman and manager of the Kansas City
Monarchs who found a second career as the founder and goodwill
ambassador of the museum.
After O'Neil's death three-and-a-half
years ago at the age of 94, the museum's management decided to go in a
new direction, deemphasizing O'Neil in favor of seeking support -- and
fundraising power -- from the families of other Negro League stars,
including Josh Gibson, the catcher for the Pittsburgh Homestead Grays
who was said to be the only man who ever hit a ball out of Yankee
The museum has removed O'Neil's voice from its
telephone greeting and didn't publicize his birthday celebration last
November. O'Neil's birthday was traditionally one of the museum's
biggest fundraising events.
Several of the museum's board members consider this an insult to O'Neil's memory.
believe that more than any other person, the success of the museum
was the result of the efforts of Buck O'Neil," said Mark Bryant, a
Kansas City attorney who resigned from the museum's board last year.
enjoy a reservoir of good will, locally and nationally, it was built on
the back of Buck O'Neil."
But Greg Baker, the museum's
executive director who took over a little more than a year ago, insists
that, despite the financial troubles and internal turmoil, the museum will survive:
You might say people are still in shock that Buck is gone. They are still languishing there. When you lose somebody like
that, sometimes it takes a little time to bounce back. I think they
will eventually see this is a really, really good strategy to help keep
this museum moving and advancing. If you love Buck, how can you
separate the museum from Buck? I'm not Buck O'Neil. There was only one
The count is rising against the