Close to 200 baseballs, all autographed by former Negro Leagues baseball players or backers, have been donated to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum by a somewhat surprising fan ... Rush singer/bassist Geddy Lee.
It's among the largest single donations the museum has had, according to director of marketing Bob Kendrick. It also represents some history the museum didn't previously have.
"Some of these guys have been dead for some time, and we could not get these (signatures) before no matter what their significance was in the Negro Leagues," he said.
There are famous names like Cool Papa Bell, Hank Aaron and Lionel Hampton, a famous fan of the leagues. Then there are men like Fireball Bill Beverly and Piper Davis, who would go on to manage Willie Mays in his early days in the league.
"Many people credit him with teaching Mays to hit a curve ball," Kendrick said.
Lee, whose band performs Saturday at Starlight (see Page 39), dropped by the museum last year unannounced, Kendrick said.
"I wasn't here, but another employee walked him through the museum, and apparently he fell in love with the place," Kendrick said. "He already had a huge respect for the Negro Leagues, as the collection shows, and this brought it home to him."
Kendrick said the museum still needs to figure out how to display the baseballs, but just having Lee make the donation is a big plus for the museum.
"It opens us up to another audience that may not have thought about the Negro Leagues prior," he said. "And again it shows the wide range of folks who have been struck by this story."
The museum at 1616 E. 18th St. Visit www.nlbm.com or call 816-221-1920.