One of the absolute best days of the whole trip was a day that didn’t even involve cards! It was a day of respect, introspection and remembrance.
Years ago on a business trip, I discovered the Negro League Hall of Fame in Kansas City, MO. I jumped at the chance to visit as a lover of history and baseball, but I was excited for more than just that. This museum reached back to some of my earliest memories as a young boy, as a collector, as a kid trying to figure out what kind of man I wanted to be.
When I was 11 years old I read a book on Satchel Paige. I was utterly captivated. His story, his mental fortitude, his struggle that landed him, finally, in the Majors in his 40’s…all of it spurned a young Jimmy to think deeper and hold Satchel in the highest regard. Of course, as a young, new card collector, I wanted to find a Satchel Paige card to own. Problem was there are only three of them, true cards from when he was playing, and none were remotely close to an 11 year old's budget! So I said, “One day I’ll own a Satchel card!” My favorite of his cards was the 1953 Topps, its beauty, its vintage feel. So as I looked more into the 1953 set, I tumbled down the collectors rabbit hole and decided at age 11 I wanted to do the WHOLE set over time.
I started mowing lawns, saving money, doing chores and started picking off commons, semi-stars like Mize, Slaughter, and others. As the years went by, I moved towards bigger guys. Even my best friends knew of this beautiful chase and all of my groomsmen pooled money together and gave me the Willie Mays as a wedding gift! ALL of these cards had a story. And though I could have done it faster as my income increased, I kept on a slow methodical path to get the cards the way that just “felt right.” Strange I know, but I also know collectors know what I am talking about.
Finally, the year I went to my first ever National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago I KNEW it was time to find the final two cards. I had saved Mantle and Paige for last. Keep in mind, not all of these are graded, not all of these are perfect or huge auction type cards. But that was never the point. The point was at age 38, 27 years after I started, it was time to finish the 1953 Topps set and have a Satchel Paige card. I found the mantle from a great seller then I looked for the right place for the final piece.
I found a booth of a mom and pop shop from Indiana. They had mostly vintage and I spoke with them for 30 minutes before telling them the story. I just wanted to see if they were about MORE than profit. And they were. We took pictures together and left with hugs. The Satchel was home and the journey complete.
So, with ALL of that history in my head, seeing the Negro League Hall of Fame, spending time in Paige’s old town where he pitched for the Monarchs, truly soaking up the stories of him and the men and women around him….it meant the world to me when I stepped through that door. EVERYTIME I am in Kansas City I visit. And this trip was even more special with my friends and wife in tow.
When we arrived, we noticed a well dressed official looking man speaking to a large group of young men being followed by a camera crew. Turns out the local semi-pro hockey team was getting a tour and it was on TV for Black History Month.
We trailed along listening to him weave stories of Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson. It was incredible.
Then we stumbled upon a section I didn’t remember! It was an exhibit on the women that played in the leagues as well, with the men! All of the women were women of color and true pioneers across the landscape of racial and gender barriers. Imagine the obstacles and difficulty they faced?! Once we saw the exhibit we knew we had to film a “Women of Sports Cards” segment with Cathy and Holly. It was perfect for the whole goal of what we are trying to do with that club. We want to give the female collectors a great space for their voice to be heard and ELEVATE the hobby, anyway we can! So as we began to film, we were able to interview Mr. Bob Kendrick, who we learned was the President of the museum. We were floored. He was amazing. What an honor, what a place! You can watch that piece on our social media but I can tell you that being there in person was incredible.
The stories behind the cards, behind the people is what makes collecting more fun than just profit. There is NOT a thing wrong with profit. We do that too! But to add an enrichment to the collecting side of this glorious hobby is what makes it last. Our trip to Kansas City will last forever in our minds but also behind the cards of the brave men and women of the Negro Leagues who we try best to honor by bringing honor to what they stood for and ten everyone about this place. If you are within a day’s drive of Kansas City it is worth your time, and TAKE your time. Soak in the great stories. Sponge up the beauty of what they did. Let yourself learn of greatness and then go collect the pieces that honor it.