In celebration of baseball’s return to Wichita, the Wichita Public Library is partnering with Humanities Kansas, The Kansas African American Museum, Urban Professionals and other organizations to present “Wichita’s Diverse History of Baseball,” a Candid Conversations series that explores Wichita’s storied history of minority baseball, from the Negro Leagues to the Mexican American teams.
The series will feature several virtual programs highlighting Wichita’s diversity through the baseball lens, including a screening and discussion of “The Other Boys of Summer,” a discussion about Mexican American Baseball in Kansas, a program about how the NBC World Series led the way to baseball integration, and an exhibition game organized by the Wichita’s Urban Professionals.
“This series began after Library staff found a small article from a local newspaper, printed in 1925, about an exhibition game in which the local Monrovians played against the local Ku Klux Klan chapter,” said Sara Dixon, Adult Programming Manager at the Wichita Public Library. “It was such an interesting story, our Candid Conversations committee started to look deeper at Wichita’s rich history of minority baseball.”
The Library will team up with organizations to provide programming and informative exhibitions about the diverse history of baseball in Wichita. The Kansas African American Museum will present an exhibit called “Time at Bat: Negro League Baseball in Wichita” from June 1-July 3, 2021 that chronicles the sportsmanship, trials and triumphs of Negro baseball players in Wichita from the late 1800’s to the 1950’s.
“We want to tell a story about Negro League Baseball in Wichita that expands a singular game or team,” said Paris Cunningham, Curator at The Kansas African American Museum. “There was a greater spirit around the players, ball parks and games that made key moments like the Monrovian game so special, and we hope to capture that essence in this exhibit.”
Representatives from Urban Professionals are planning an exhibition softball game at McAdams Park for July 11 at 6:00 p.m. Entitled Jim Crow Strikes Out, this goodwill exhibition game will feature a matchup pitting two teams of Wichita notables against each other.
A complete list of programs and exhibits, as well as historical data about baseball in Wichita, can be found at wichitalibrary.org/baseball.
This series is made possible through a grant from Humanities Kansas and by the Wichita Public Library Foundation.
Schedule of programs:
“The Other Boys of Summer” Film & Discussion
Saturday, June 12; 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Wichita Public Library (online via Zoom)
“The Other Boys of Summer” explores civil rights in America through the lives of the Negro League baseball players. Emmy-nominated director Lauren Meyer will engage the audience in a dialogue about the story behind the film and answer questions about her research.
Time at Bat: Negro Baseball in Wichita
June 1-July 3; The Kansas African American Museum (exhibition)
“Time at Bat” is a free exhibition that chronicles the sportsmanship, trials and triumphs of Negro Baseball players in Wichita from the late 1800s to the 1950s. The exhibition will travel to different locations throughout the summer.
The Wichita Monrovians, Colored Western League
Thursday, June 17; Noon; The Kansas African American Museum
(online via Facebook and YouTube)
John E. Dreifort, Ph.D., history professor at Wichita State University, will discuss the Wichita Monrovians baseball team and its big games, including the day they played Wichita’s Ku Klux Klan on Ackerman Island.
Mexican American Baseball in Kansas
Sunday, June 27; 2-3:30 p.m.; Wichita Public Library (online via Zoom)
From the 1930s to the 1950s, Mexican American immigrants worked the railroads in Kansas towns and created baseball leagues. Historian and author Raymond Olais will present the history of the Mexican American baseball teams in Kansas.
36 Teams in Wichita:
How the NBC World Series Led the Way to Baseball Integration
Thursday, July 8; 6-7 p.m.; Wichita Public Library (online via Zoom)
Baseball historian Phil Dixon will discuss the importance of the NBC World Series tournament and how it helped pave the way to racially integrated baseball nationwide.
Jim Crow Strikes Out! An Exhibition Game
Sunday, July 11; 6 p.m. (date/time tentative); McAdams Park Robert Thurman Field
Organized by the Urban Professionals, this softball game will celebrate Wichita’s history of baseball and the longstanding impact of the McAdam’s urban park.
“Shadow Ball” by Rochel G. Coleman
Wednesday, July 14; 6-7 p.m.; Wichita Public Library (online via Zoom)
“Shadow Ball” pays homage to the men who played in Negro League baseball and paints a picture of America’s suffering during the Great Depression through the eyes of baseball player Cool Papa Bell.
The Negro National League:
An 11-Year Journey Through the Stormy Seas of Pro Baseball
Tuesday, August 3; 6-7:30 p.m.; Wichita Public Library (online via Zoom)
Author Kevin L. Mitchell will discuss the early years of the Negro National Leagues post World War I and the climate that led to its formation and early years.