Kansas City Monarchs: Bringing Strength
To Major League Baseball
Kansas City Monarchs: Bringing Strength To Major League Baseball
The Kansas City Monarchs was one of the strongest teams in Negro League Baseball, and played a big role in making America’s Major League Baseball a success. The Monarchs produced some of the first and best athletes that brought about racial integration of Major League Baseball in America. The Monarchs never had a losing season, won ten national league pennants, and appeared in three World Series competitions, winning two of them. In addition to being widely considered the most successful and popular team in Negro League Baseball, the Monarchs were financially sound and had good business practices that helped them survive when many teams collapsed.
The Kansas City Monarchs team was formed in 1920 and continued until 1950. For the first 11 years they were part of the Negro National League, winning four league pennants and one World Series championship. When the Great Depression hit, the league was falling apart and the Monarchs’ team owner, J. L. Wilkinson, got creative and changed the team into an exhibition club, from 1932-1936. That not only helped the team survive, but it actually increased their revenue and was very successful. Then, the Monarchs joined the Negro American League and stayed in that league until 1950 (when it shifted from major league to minor league after integration was done in Major League Baseball).
The team took another hit, when many of its better players left to serve in the military during World War II, but again was able to come back strong and win the 1942 World Series and play in the 1943 World Series. What finally brought about the end of the Kansas City Monarchs was a very successful story: the racial integration of America’s Major League Baseball system. The Monarchs’ contribution to Major League Baseball was early, when the first black player to join MLB – Jackie Robinson – joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945. And the contribution continued when Satchel Paige left the Kansas City Monarchs to join the Cleveland Indians in 1948.
Jackie Robinson was an excellent athlete, with connections to Kansas prior to joining the Kansas City Monarchs. He had attended college in California, ending up at the University of California in Los Angeles. There, he lettered in four sports (including baseball), and participated in even more. In his time at UCLA Robinson experienced integrated sports teams and was very successful. After college he was drafted into the Army and served at Fort Riley in Kansas, where he became a Second Lieutenant. Then he was transferred to Fort Hood, Texas, where he refused an order to move to the back of the bus and faced a court martial. When he left the Army, Robinson joined the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. After only one season, he was recruited to join the Brooklyn Dodgers by Branch Rickey, who owned the team and had been...