Trouble at 18th and Vine

It’s been a long two years for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Buck O’Neil died in October 2006, and since then there has been haggling over (a) an education and research center that O’Neil hoped would be his legacy; and (b) a new Executive Director of the Museum itself. As of late Friday, (b) is solved, and it may very well mean the death of (a):

After a months-long selection process and a sharply divided board vote, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has a new executive director.

Greg Baker’s hiring Friday closes a trying two-year span for the museum since Buck O’Neil’s death, a time that has seen O’Neil’s dream of a $15 million education and research center lose almost all its momentum. Baker’s hiring also caused at least two board members to resign in protest and is seen by some as the education project’s death sentence.

Baker, a former assistant city manager who won the split vote on the strength of his managing and planning experience, thinks he can help the museum reach greater heights.

That whiff of controversy comes from Mellinger’s straight report on the Baker selection. Jason Whitlock, however, bypasses the whiff and gets right down to the stinky:

When Pellom McDaniels and Greg Baker met privately with a Kansas City Star reporter Friday, they explained their bizarre, irresponsible and borderline unethical decision by playing up Baker’s “strategic” expertise.

I can’t wait to watch Baker strategically fix the mess created by his appointment as Negro Leagues Baseball Museum executive director.

And when Baker executes the marching order (halt the campaign to build the Buck O’Neil education and research facility) given to him by museum board member Kevin Gray, I can’t wait to watch Baker strategically refund the money (including mine) already raised in support of the campaign.

Oh, yeah, the museum is going to have to tap into the strategic expertise that got Baker booted from a plush downtown job assisting city manager Wayne Cauthen to a job at the airport, the Siberia for city employees.

And there’s plenty more where that came from. It’s probably worth noting at this point that I love Jason Whitlock’s stuff, even when I think he’s 100% wrong.

Not that I think he’s wrong here. Indeed, though I am not acquainted with the specific politics of the Negro Leagues Museum, the dynamic here is a familiar one: a Chamber of Commerce-style politico with many career stops along the way, lauded for his alleged “entrepreneurial” and “strategic planning” credentials is given a high profile job over a lifer from within the organization. Here, the passed-over lifer is a guy by the name of Bob Kendrick, who, according to Whitlock, was O’Neil’s right hand man and the guy who has truly run the place for years.

In my experience, the guy in Baker’s position usually crashes and burns within two years, mostly because “entrepreneurial credentials” aren’t all that applicable to a non-profit organization, and because no one really knows what the hell “strategic planning experience” really is. When the guy is eventually fired, the board then tries to get a do-over by hiring the guy in Kendrick’s position. Except that guy, having been passed-over for a lightweight, has since moved on and is no longer interested, leaving the whole organization in the lerch for about five years. In other words, it’s the organizational equivalent of signing Barry Zito.

I hope Whitlock is wrong, and that this Baker fellow is the right guy for the job, because the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is too wonderful and too vital an outfit to be dragged down by this common brand of political drama.

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Whitlock’s right. This is a bad thing. There is also discussion about moving the museum out to the suburbs, supposedly becasue its in a bad part of town.

And it kind of is. But people aren’t visitng the museum at 11 pm on a Saturday night. And to move it is to deny the heritage that helped create it in the first place.

If Barker was such a great strategic planner, he would have done something to clean up Broadway ant Troost and The Paseo. But he didn’t. And he’ll screw this up also. Its too bad. Its a good museum.


Posnanski, of course, has some must-read information about this, too.


“In my experience, the guy in Baker’s position usually crashes and burns within two years … When the guy is eventually fired, the board then tries to get a do-over by hiring the guy in Kendrick’s position.”

Wow. Less than 2 years later… you were spot on. Sad.