I was honored to give a talk on Jackie's time with the Monarchs at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum recently. Below is more or less what I said.
Thanks to Dr. Doswell and Mr. Kendrick for inviting me to speak. I love this place, and it’s a thrill to be here doing this.
Like a lot of baseball fans, the history of the game is a big part of my appreciation and fandom. And being born and raised here, the history of baseball in Kansas City is especially compelling to me. So knowing that one of the most important players in baseball history was playing for one of the hometown teams of the past when he was signed to break the color line in the majors, I naturally wanted to learn all I could about Jackie Robinson’s season playing for the Monarchs in 1945. It’s a part of his story that is often just brushed over. Jackie touches on it briefly in his autobiography, and several other books have some good information, but my curiosity still wasn’t satisfied after reading the more modern sources I could find on the topic. My remaining curiosity led me to seek out contemporary news accounts from 1945, and I started at the downtown Kansas City library looking at microfilm from the Kansas City Call, the newspaper geared toward the black community in Kansas City that is still in operation just across the street. I started piecing together the day-to-day happenings of the ’45 season. I added to what I found in the Call by searching various online archives, and, along with some help from other researchers, I managed to get a pretty good feel for the five months Jackie spent with the Monarchs. Negro leagues coverage was spotty compared to the immaculate major league records we are used to, but there is more information than you might think. There were plenty of fascinating details to be found, and I hope you’re interested to hear them.