(former Royal / current Met D.J. Carrasaco, shown wearing something kinda stylish for a change)
If you were expecting the Kansas City Royals to don K.C. Monarchs uniforms this Saturday as part of their annual homage to the Negro Leagues, think again. The club will instead be handing out souvenir pennants, an initiative the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger calls, “the stupidest thing the Royals have done in years, and we include Sluggerrr shooting a fan in the eye with a hot dog and $36 million for José Guillen.” Despite having MLB’s lowest payroll at $33 million, the Royals, writes Mellinger, will instead save $15K-$20K with “a shamefully weak tribute that borders on insulting and paints the franchise as out of touch and embarrassingly cheap.”
Those replica uniforms advertised a worthy cause that holds special meaning in this town and generated up to $20,000 that became an important part of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s budget. Fans also used to get replica Monarchs hats, the ones you see around town all the time.
They used to invite former players, who enjoyed the reunion and a few dollars for autographs. Those players will be home this weekend, left to hear Royals marketing director Mike Bucek say “we just wanted to try something different and put the focus more on Buck O’Neil.”
That simply doesn’t match with reality. People notice uniforms, so if the Royals wanted to put the focus more on Buck, they could’ve at least put a patch on the players’ sleeves. They could’ve been wearing those patches all season — Buck would’ve turned 100 this year.
By saying they want to highlight Buck and then ditching the uniforms, the Royals expose themselves as ignorant about the man they’re honoring. If you knew Buck, you know he would want the players in uniform, for the focus of the day to be on the group. If anything, the Royals using this excuse only drives a pre-existing and petty jealousy that some other former Negro Leaguers carry toward Buck.
The museum is going through some well-documented financial struggles and needs all the funding it can get. Now it needs even more. The Royals still have time to do the right thing and cut the museum a check to make up for the difference, but a misguided tribute this weekend shows an unfortunate lack of awareness.