Batter Up: New Exhibit Explores KC's Baseball History

As All-Star fever rushes over Kansas City, the Library is presenting a rich look into KC’s 146-year baseball history in the exhibit Amateurs to All-Stars: The Rise of Baseball in Kansas City, open through the 2012 World Series at the Central Library. Before you head down to the Library, peek at a few photo highlights.

The Brush Creek Sluggers. The Rosedale Ramblers. The Bennington Avenue Sunsets…

In the days long before the Royals and their Kiss Cams, Hot Dog Derbies, and other electricity-enabled attractions, Kansas City baseball fans of the late 19th century thrilled to the sight of amateur squads playing “base ball” in parks around town on Sunday afternoons.

With colorful names like the Antelopes, the Hopes, and the Darby Boilermakers, the teams would square off in diamonds-in-the-rough like Exercise Park at 14th and McGee or Paseo Park.

Park at 15th & Paseo

In those early days, ballplayers went hatless in billowing, collared uniforms that look downright cherubic compared to today’s muscular, slim-fitting polyester.

KC base ball club

But those puffy uniforms didn’t mean the players were soft – the unruly 1886 Cowboys had a penchant for wild games in which they openly berated the umps.

These scrappy bush leaguers played for amateur “nines” that represented local schools, athletic clubs, and businesses, such as the Schmelzer Arms Co. Some young players even got day jobs based on their skills on the field.

Schmelzer Club 1908

Of course, as the exhibit shows, Kansas City baseball evolved well past the days of handlebar mustaches and tobacco cards. After the early days of amateur clubs came the minor-league Kansas City Blues and their Negro leagues counterparts the Monarchs, which bred major league greats such as Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige.

Satchel Paige

Next came the major league Athletics of the 1950s & 60s and their flamboyant owner, Charlie Finley; and finally the Royals we know and love today.

There were All-Star games too. In 1960 the A’s home field of Municipal Stadium hosted KC’s first All-Star game.

The All-Stars returned again in 1973, the year Ewing Kauffman brought the Royals to the newly built Truman Sports Complex.

Truman Complex

Now in 2012, as baseball fans from around the nation converge on Kansas City for a third go-round, we invite anyone who’s interested in baseball history to slide into the Central Library and check out Amateurs to All-Stars.

Handlebar mustaches optional.

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