Honoring the past, playing for the present

6-23 Aviles at second.JPGSorry for the late post… It’s been a long day, you know with the four-hour game, the seven-run comeback and the end to a Giant weekend (we had to get one more in before they left town).

We wanted to get this up, we’ve got a good story:

Royals outfielder Joey Gathright has a sense of history. He understands what the game he plays was built upon. He volunteered to don Jackie Robinson’s uniform number earlier this season to honor the man who broke the color barrier. He was one of four Royals to do so on Jackie Robinson Day this year. 6-23 High Fives.JPGGathright credits Robinson with influencing his education and showing him the opportunity in the world of baseball.

Today gave him another chance to honor the history of the game, while making some Royals’ history too. After all, seven-run comebacks don’t happen everyday. They are pretty unique. And Gathright had the game-winning hit, while wearing the same jersey Robinson did – a Kansas City Monarchs’ jersey.

It was Salute to the Negro Leagues Day held in conjunction with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. It was the second largest comeback in Royals history (nine runs is the largest deficit the Royals have ever overcome along with six other seven-run comebacks).

Technically, Gathright didn’t actually wear the same jersey Robinson wore. Robinson played for the Monarchs in 1945 only. The uniforms the Royals wore today honored the 1951-52 Monarchs. The Royals did wear Robinson’s jersey last season in honor of the 60th anniversary of Robinson playing in the Majors. Over the years, the Royals have also worn the 1924, 1942, 1945, 1948 and 1949 uniforms.

6-22 Monarchs 2.JPGDirector of the Royals Hall of Fame Curt Nelson said the Royals will try to pair their uniforms with a historic date in Monarchs history, like Robinson’s 60th Anniversary year, his lone year with Kansas City (1945 and 2005) and the Monarchs’ first championship (1924 and 2004).

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants put on throwbacks honoring the 1927 Royal Giants, a team which barnstormed up and down the California coast and traveled abroad. With roots in northern California, the all-star team traveled to Hawaii, Korea and Japan hoping to spread the game. The Royal Giants went 35-2-1 on the Goodwill Tour.

6-22 Lincecum.JPGThe tour’s impact, along with the other Negro League teams and Major League all-stars who traveled abroad, is still felt today. Two Japanese pitchers threw today (The Royals’ Yasuhiko Yabuta and The Giants’ Keiichi Yabu). Trey Hillman managed in Japan and the country won the inaugural World Baseball Classic. There is even a team in Japan called the Yomiuri Giants which formed in 1936. Coincidence?

Nelson said today’s Giants uniforms were based almost solely off one picture of the barnstormers. The only picture the Negro Leagues Museum had. It features Hall of Famer Raliegh “Biz” Mackey and a few other Royal Giants players. They are wearing grey pin-stripes with an interlocking “RG.”

6-22 Giants 2.JPG“We only have the one black and white picture,” Nelson said. “So we don’t really know what color that ‘RG’ was, so we took a little bit of license.”

Nelson said Ray Doswell, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Curator, believes the jerseys featured a brownish-orange or brownish-yellow logo.

Nelson said a lot of teams call the Royals for advice on their Negro Leagues throwbacks. A very non-exhaustive search turns up quite a few examples of throwbacks over the last couple of years, including the Oriolesthe Cardinals, the Nationals, and the Brewers who played the Royals in Milwaukee last season. 

But it all originates in Kansas City, with the Museum being the defining authority on uniform accuracy and respectfully honoring the past. The Royals have been partnering with the Museum since 1994. Gathright has been here for three of them and he said was significant.

“They paved the way for me and to wear the uniform of the Monarchs, one of the major teams in that league, is very special. And it’s even better to get the game-winning hit on a day like today.”

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