An introduction to the “African-American Royals” Project

Without a doubt, the current #BlackLivesMatter protests sweeping the nation have kept me from focusing on much else these past few days. Normally, my focus beyond teaching and grad school is pretty saturated on Royals baseball, and yet, I have not really cared much about the current state of baseball, even with negotiations moving a little forward over the past couple of days. (It seems like there has been a major push for 50 games, which I think would suck; I would rather see MORE not LESS baseball after all.)

While I did write a post recently that captured some of my feelings about everything going on, I wanted to try and regain my focus to baseball and the Royals. After all, this is a baseball blog that focuses primarily on the Kansas City Royals, and I don’t want it to be much more than that at the end of the day (my “general” blogging days are long gone). That’s not to say that what I feel about our president, the #BLM movement, and racial inequity in this country is not important to me (it is). However, I want to be able to voice or share those opinions on this blog in a way that relates to the Royals, and in a way that engages in positive and constructive discussion about the issues that plague this country, and even Kansas City, which has its own ugly history of racial divide.

As I struggled today to figure out what to write about, I started thinking about Kansas City’s history of African-Americans having a strong influence in the game of baseball. After all, the Negro League Baseball Museum is located in Kansas City, and Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier, played in Kansas City with the Monarchs, arguably the greatest Negro League team of all time. However, while I could write a whole bunch of posts on the Negro Leagues (and that may happen), including the players (I absolutely love Satchel Paige) and the teams, I tried to reign my focus on the African-American players who made an impact with the Royals. I want to examine not only their contributions to the Royals’ success over the franchise’s 52-year history, but also who they are as people too. Basically, my goals is to create a series of posts that in spirit is similar to the SABR Biography Project. However, I want this series of posts to be specific to the Royals, and a little more personal, since I want to really explore and celebrate how certain African-American baseball players impacted the Royals in all facets of the game, and how they are remembered by Royals fans today.

So for a good number of posts, I will be focusing on one major African-American player who played for the Kansas City Royals, and pick a season where they had the most impact over their career. For example, in the first post of this series, I will talk about Amos Otis and his 1978 season, in which he led the Royals in WAR. While I will primarily focus on his 1978 campaign, I will also talk about who Otis was as a player, and what he meant to KC during his playing days, as well as his legacy as a Royal overall.

There is not “set” number of pieces in this series. There have been a lot of great African-American players who have made Royals fans proud on and off the field, and to limit it to four or five would not feel proper. However, I will try to focus on this series primarily during this time over the next two-to-three weeks, though I may put in other posts from time to time depending on relevance. In this series, I want to honor the black athletes who have helped strengthen and develop the game of baseball in Kansas City. And I want to do it during this time in our country, where African-Americans all over continue to fight for their rights and justice in this country. I know this series may be trivial in the grand scheme of things, but it feels right to me, and I hope I am able to do some justice to those African-American players who proudly and honorably wore the Blue and White at Kauffman Stadium.

African-American baseball history is synonymous with Kansas City (and you learn that more so with every visit to the Negro League Baseball Museum). Unfortunately, that fact of black history often gets forgotten with baseball fans, especially those who don’t reside in this area. Thus, with no baseball currently going on in this country, this is as good a time as any to give relevance and voice to those African-American players who helped grow not only the Royals, but baseball in general here in the City of Fountains.

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