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MLB, MLBPA donate $1M to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) When it was founded in a one-room office nearly three decades ago, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum set out to preserve an important yet quickly fading era of America’s pastime.

The days of Pop Lloyd and Judy Johnson, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige.

Its mission has evolved and expanded over the years to where it serves not only as a caretaker of the past but a bridge to the future. There is the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center, which opened earlier this year in the old Paseo YMCA, and a $19 million urban youth academy in development nearby that aims to attract more kids to the game.

All those endeavors cost money, of course, and that’s where Major League Baseball and its players’ union have stepped in. They joined Wednesday to present a $1 million grant to the museum to help with operating costs, expansion plans and educational opportunities.

“Because of the sacrifices and triumphs of the men and women of the Negro Leagues, the museum is an inspirational experience for fans of any age,” Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “We appreciate the museum’s contributions to baseball and the role it can play in encouraging young people.”

Blacks have played professional baseball since the late 1800s, often as part of military or college teams. There were few color barriers back then, only a profound love of the game.

But as racism grew in the early 1900s, and Jim Crow laws began an age of segregation, black players found it increasingly difficult to gain acceptance in the game. So in 1920, former player Rube Foster held a meeting at the Paseo YUMC to set rules for the Negro National League, and soon rival leagues were springing up across the country.

Games often played in major urban centers became events, drawing thousands of fans to see a style of play that was every bit as entertaining as the games played by their white counterparts.

The Negro Leagues had their share of stars, too. Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson became household names, while future Hall of Famers such as Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson – who broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 – got their start on teams such as the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Kansas City Monarchs.

“The Negro Leagues played an important role in not only changing the game but America, too,” said the museum’s president, Bob Kendrick, who was close friends with several former players.

The integration of baseball in the 1940s and `50s led to the decline of the Negro Leagues, and the last teams folded in the early 1960s. By the late 1980s, the era was largely forgotten, glossed over by historians eager to rewrite baseball’s often-checkered past.

With that in mind, a group of former players led by Monarchs star Buck O’Neil decided to found a museum to preserve their history. It has since grown into a 10,000-square-foot destination in the historic 18th and Vine District, adjacent to the American Jazz Museum, and draws thousands of visitors every year.

Highlights include hundreds of photographs, a replica field with 12 bronze sculptures, a massive collection of baseball artifacts and a series of multimedia computer stations.

Current big leaguers often make a point of dropping in when their teams are in town to play the Royals. Earlier this year, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones – who had been subject to racial taunts in a game at Fenway Park – toured the museum and made a $20,000 donation.

Longtime player Tony Clark, the first black executive director of the players’ union, said the latest grant will help ensure the Negro Leagues and their players are never forgotten.

“Today’s players are committed to providing opportunities for underserved populations to play baseball,” Clark said, “and we all believe the Negro Leagues’ storied history can play an important role in our game’s future by inspiring minority youth to play the sport we all love.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Joe Morgan is asking Hall of Fame voters to keep PED users out

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Hall of Famer Joe Morgan has never equivocated on his belief that users of performance enhancing drugs should not be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Whenever he has been interviewed on the subject he has been steadfast in his stance that PED users are not worthy of induction.

This week he has taken a further step: he has sent a letter to all of the Hall of Fame voters, asking them to keep PED users out.

In his letter — the entirety of which you can read over at Joe Posnanski’s blog — Morgan says “if steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.” By “we,” he’s clearly referring to Hall of Fame members. While he does not name any player he would like to see voters keep out, he spends a lot of time talking about how PEDs are bad for baseball, PED users cheated the game and how he and many other Hall of Famers do not want to see them elected. He invokes “youngsters” and refers to the Hall of Fame as “special” and speaks to the “sanctity” of election. It’s the moral argument against PED use we’ve been hearing for a good 15 years or so.

It’s also hopelessly naive and comes far too late in the game to be a useful plea.

As we’ve noted many, many times, there are already PED users in the Hall of Fame. Amphetamine users to be sure, but even if you want to give them a pass, there are steroid and/or HGH users too. In case you forgot about that, allow me to remind you about the time Hall of Fame voter Thomas Boswell appeared in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary update “The Tenth Inning” and explicitly said that he personally witnessed a current Hall of Famer drink a PED-laden shake:

“There was another player now in the Hall of Fame who literally stood with me and mixed something and I said “What’s that?” and he said “it’s a Jose Canseco milkshake”. And that year that Hall of Famer hit more home runs than ever hit any other year. So it wasn’t just Canseco, and so one of the reasons that I thought that it was an important subject was that it was spreading. It was already spreading by 1988.”

Boswell tends to keep pretty silent about that come Hall of Fame voting time in December, but he has never backed off the claim either.

Less reliable, but still never refuted, were the stories of Patty Blyleven, former wife of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, who said that she knows of a Hall of Famer who took PEDs as well, and who continues to nonetheless publicly rail against PED use. There are likewise other Hall of Famers of whom baseball writers are strongly convinced — or know for a fact — took PEDs but about whom they’ve never reported because no one would go on the record about it or corroborate it in a way that satisfies prevailing journalistic standards. Go ask a BBWAA member about why it took Jeff Bagwell so long to get into the Hall of Fame. Or simply go back and read what they said about him a few years ago.

Going beyond those cases are the cases of a host of players — players who have been on the ballot for years —  about which we’ll never, ever know. Do we know for sure that any of the guys currently on the ballot who played before drug testing never took PEDs? Of course not. In light of that all Morgan can ask is for voters to keep players of an entire era out. Which is a completely unreasonable and unfair request.

In the absence of guidance from the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball, BBWAA voters were somewhat inconsistent with alleged PED users for a time, but they’re beginning to coalesce around a set of rough standards:

  • If you tested positive for PEDs or were disciplined for PEDs after the testing program was fully online like Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro did, you’re not getting in. Figure Alex Rodriguez will fall in this group one day too;
  • If you were strongly and convincingly associated with PEDs in the pre-testing era like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the road you have to go down is going to be pretty bumpy, but you may, possibly, get in one day if you were an overwhelmingly great player;
  • If you were seen as one-dimensional like Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa and either admitted to PED use or were suspected of it, welp, sorry. We’ll leave why Sosa is suspected of it to another post.

All of this is will likely change slightly over time. Bonds and Clemens have recently gotten over the 50% voting threshold and could gain some steam with the voters. Alex Rodriguez was good enough and his post-career image rehabilitation has been such that he may get more support than most post-testing PED guys one day. Maybe McGwire and Sosa will get new looks down the road by some iteration of the Veteran’s Committee. After that, there aren’t a lot of guys who are seriously in the Hall of Fame discussion with credible PED claims against them.

Which is to say that history is sorting itself out, for better or for worse. Sorting itself out in a way that renders Morgan’s views on the matter — whether you consider them well-founded or otherwise — too little, too late and, given what we know and do not know about PED users, rather useless.