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Baseball, Black History Month In KC … Every Day Is Wi-Fi Day

March 8th, 2014 · Tags:Cities · Sports · Wi-Fi



The first visit to The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., I came up empty. There was a slightly less-than-friendly greeting at the help desk, and I was told I could not take photographs in the exhibition — even if I was a member of the media — not without an appointment, anyway.


Bummer. I thought the NLBM would be the perfect complement to the PingWi-Fi coverage of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


I walked away.


Had it not been for the timely scheduling of “42,” HBO’s well-done film on the Jackie Robinson story airing back in my hotel room I wouldn’t have gone back. But, timing is everything.



After seeing “42,” I had to go back. Yes, I did things properly, called ahead and scheduled a photo tour. (I for one, didn’t know all of the JR story …) You may know, Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs before Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers realized three things: segregation was wrong; there was better baseball being played elsewhere; and there was more money to be made by expanding the talent pool and the audience of the league. Rickey signed Robinson for the Dodgers, stealing him away from the Kansas City Monarchs and the rest is history.


KC Jackie Team


Branch Rickey


In my opinion “42” does a pretty good job showing the hardships for Robinson and the courage shown by a few of his supporters – both black and white.


Jackie Robinson


So about the museum … lots of vintage photography and artifacts. Even the most absent-minded sports fan who visits will soon realize the Negro Leagues story is much more than a sports story — more of a civil rights story played out in the baseball genre. And it is a story of innovation and great contributions … Did you know the Negro Leagues hosted the first night games under the lights?



And the exhibit is quick to point out that when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, it also signaled the end of the Negro leagues. As talent migrated to the majors, the Negro leagues invited in women players and even resorting to clowning in the games. Could this have led to basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters?



Great news. The Museum does have Wi-Fi as does the American Jazz Museum in the same facility — The Horace M. Peterson III Visitor Center — all near the corner of 18th and Vine … the corner of baseball and jazz, I say – 6 pings.


After I toured the facilities, watched the film clips and read the kiosk info, I hit the gift shop. Ha … yes, I guess you would have to know me, my bizarre take on things and that I am not prejudiced (I hate most people regardless of their skin … just kidding) … but I so wanted a t-shirt printed with a word that Samuel L. Jackson can say ever so comfortably in a film, but I have to be careful to use delicately in a blog. (No, not “the” word … but the other word, so to speak) I like shirts that get reactions out of people – that’s my point.


But, I’ll be darned if there was a shirt I wanted in the place. The style I really wanted most was an authentic, vintage style of shirt with the old Indianapolis Clowns logo on it. Not there. The Monarchs merchandise looked pretty nostalgic, but not for me. Most of the other jerseys were cluttered with multiple, huge logos in flashy colors … perhaps the target audience being more the rap music artist and not so much the baseball history nerd. Who’s to say? Very interesting!


I did, however, grab a coffee mug with “42” Jackie Robinson and the other word on the side.  You can find me most days, feeling all historical and somewhat politically correct, drinking from my new Negro Leagues Baseball mug …




Lots of things going on in those jerseys on display and for sale … the aforementioned Clowns … The Buffalo Soldiers (another fave, mon) … The New York Cubans … The Atlanta Crackers … The ECL, The Eastern Colored League … words …


Later, still thinking about the museum, I was driving around the city when I heard the museum President, Bob Kendrick, on a radio public service announcement for Black History Month. The executive said, “It has been said that the Kansas City Monarchs were the ‘New York Yankees’ of the Negro Leagues, and others have said the New York Yankees are the ‘Kansas City Monarchs’ of the major leagues.”


Well said.


KC Chief Vie


Meanwhile … time was running out in KC … here’s what I got:


Roastery, Courtney



The next to last day in Kansas City, I visited the coolest place — The Roastery.  I had passed the coffee shop and bean grinding mega-place numerous times … seeing a vintage bomber suspended in the air, high above … never knowing what it was.  And, sorry to say, as I asked my friends about cool places … no one had mentioned it.  I suppose if you have an airplane on a steel I-beam above your head, people just assume … Ha … got a great chai latte, met another blogger, met another photographer and enjoyed excellent Wi-Fi … Best place in town for my money – 7 pings.




More History, WWI – The National World War I Museum At Liberty Memorial tower offers the best view in town for the KC skyline from its tower, and more Lugers, machine guns, bone saws, mortars, medals, torpedoes, than you can imagine … even if you grew up watching war movies like me.  I spent three hours in the museum and needed a week.  Guns, history, guns, history … more guns … more history … and the bravery … bravery that an exhibit can’t begin to display.  There’s Wi-Fi throughout … a gift shop and a cafe with period snacks in the display case … including KC’s Chase’s Cherry Mash – 6 pings.




WWI Museum




Winstead’s – the hometown favorite malt shop and diner. I frequented two locations, one just east of The Plaza and the other out south near I-35 on Shawnee Mission. Both had great free Wi-Fi … My love ended there. Ha … I awarded the first $0.25 gratuity of my life at Winstead’s on principle. (That’s probably about the same monetary value as .5 pings …) One night I went in for the Wi-Fi and ordered a chocolate sundae to justify my presence. I ask you … what is the crowning feature of a chocolate sundae? The cherry atop, right? Can you believe they brought me a sundae with a smashed, ripped, mutilated and torn cherry on top? Who does that? It’s the principle … Winstead’s is a landmark ice cream joint. How much do you really care about a customer if you can’t even select a good cherry to put on it? Ha … I was going to have a lighthearted philosophical conversation about this with the waitress, and send it back for another cherry. But, I never saw the waitress again. The sundae melted as I waited to discuss the art of sundae making. No pings.




Krispy Kreme – My bad … hit them late in the day on blizzard day because everything else was closing and yuck … the donuts were stale. No Wi-Fi either … but I appreciate their resourcefulness “Just steal the neighbor’s Wi-Fi. That’s what we do.” 2 pings for resourcefulness.




The Elephant Bar (on Metcalf) – The EB was my second-favorite college hangout at Texas Tech, so recently I hit them up in Albuquerque too. Still, no Wi-Fi at The Elephant, sad to say. But, I did eat free. I ordered a steak. It was a bad sign when the waitress apologized for my meal being late, because someone had given my steak to another table. Finally, a piece of meat was put before me but it was cold. I sent it back, not unlike a battered cherry, and quickly the manager hovered over me, comping my meal and getting more meat for me. Hmmm … this one was warm but smaller … Did they microwave the one I sent back. Still … they attempted customer service. Unlike the soda jerk at Winstead’s, my server did well financially at The Elephant – 3 pings.


BBQ — Earlier, I think I mentioned the great barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s, the 18th & Brooklyn location (no Wi-Fi, no frills other than fountain Big Red). Everyone told me Oklahoma Joe’s was the best in KC, which makes no sense from a branding standpoint. Even more senseless, the joint was never open on my day off from the Dirty Gig. Lastly, in the BBQ genre, I did one of several Gates BBQ locations. I highly recommend the burnt ends sandwich at Gates, if you have lots of sauce. Most intriguing, the technology … not Wi-Fi but an antique looking system of multiple ceiling fans, belts and pulleys that cool the cafe.


The Midland Theater — There is nothing I love more than live music when out on the road. So, it was devastating that I didn’t get to see The Pixies in this older, intimate live music venue. Media pass …. DENIED! (My compliments to the band’s media relations person …)


Starbucks — No tour of a city would be complete without a visit to the green thing. Pretty sure the Starbucks on Broadway in Kansas City was not only mentioned, but received high marks in my first blog years ago. Yes, I hit it again and again. Great people watching … But a bone to pick. The drive up window is unAmerican, I say. What sense or fairness is there in waiting on the people first who are either too lazy, too important, or just too darned rushed to come inside? I mean …. wait on them, but don’t make me wait when I am first at the counter. Agreed? Ha … and I noticed something I have never seen at the hundreds of Bux I have done around the country. When I ordered my trademark green tea frappuccino, the baristas scattered. (Finally one girl drew the short straw and made my drink …) It must be one of the more difficult concoctions in their repertoire. Leave it to me to make their life difficult. Elsewhere … the Starbucks in The Plaza … awesomeness.



Highly recommended by my buddy Roberto, my next stop was Broadway Cafe. I headed on over with great expectations … yes to Broadway in Kansas City. How can this be? What a cool looking place, but no Wi-Fi!?! But I am open minded and decided to give them my money anyway … However, that wasn’t as easy as you would think. I stood in line for about five minutes, at the counter … at the front of the line, when i noticed they were taking money and serving people who walked up beside me. Heck no, I didn’t just let it go. When I asked if “my money was good?,” they said they didn’t realize I was standing at the front of the line, directly in front of the cash register wanting to order something to drink. Well … maybe we do things differently in Texas … and everywhere else in the country/world. Sorry Roberto – 2 pings, those for the excellent lemon poundcake.


Boba – Just around the corner from Broadway Cafe is a cool little boba tea shop … or bubble tea for the uninitiated. Yes, Tea Drops on Pennsylvania has Wi-Fi … and yes they have one of my favorites drinks … served with brown tapioca balls with .38 caliber straws … I asked a few questions, and asked if they could seal my drink with one of their air tight wrappers that was printed with the word “ping.” They apparently mistook my glee for newness. The barista asked if I had been to a boba tea joint before. I bet my first visit in California, back in 2003 predates the KC store … just guessing. Still – 5 pings. Loosen up a little.


And what of Cari-BOO? – Caribou Coffee has always been one of my favorites … since I first encountered them a few years back in the Midwest. Call them a more rustic kind of chain — buckskin motif and antler logos … or something like that. So … I was thrilled when I saw the cool Caribou logo across the street, about a half mile from my Drury hotel in KC. But like I said, Cari-boo! The KC location was the first drive-thru only Caribou I have seen in all my travels. Maybe next time … They are known to serve up good caffeine and iced treats, along with Wi-Fi.


Caribou Coffee


Speaking of the Drury … our relationship started slow, and thanks to some great Wi-Fi and even more stellar customer service, the stay was great. It was at The Drury — Kansas City often being a test market for new products — the one of the hotel clerks gave me my first Oreo with red peppermint filling (“stuff”). Hey … not bad! But … it so looks like a black puppy, with black lips, showing his tongue … I digress …


And lastly … the place I saw most in KC … The Fountain View Apartments, near the square. Ha … I saw them for about 60 days consecutivley, because our team was doing some work there. Although I did not live in the apartments, I would say it looks like a very cool complex. The first thing I did was check for Wi-Fi networks around the property.



Ha! Hotspots are everywhere … and to the freeloader’s chagrin, all of the Wi-Fi networks were securely locked down and password protected. I noticed that first … next I noticed they were all from the same Internet provider, and lastly that all of the hotspots also had a matching guest hotspot. Obviously, someone had done a good job to land a contract at the apartments and install the equipment, creating somewhat of a plug-and-play solution for new tenants … or so it would seem. Maybe everyone does that now … I don’t know. Haven’t lived in an apartment in many years. But if I did … this place would be a candidate. They have their own cool little Internet cafe in the office area too.


A few more observations about the place: lots of ornate metal work that creates the best afternoon shadows: the apartments are walking distance from The Plaza, with gates backing right up to the river walk; there’s a huge park for dog- and people-walking across the street to the east; it’s just a stone’s throw from the great Nelson-Atkins art museum … and my favorite … a great view of sunset on The Plaza, with geese landing and taking off constantly, honking away in the pastel light over the river.


Thanks for a great time, Kansas City … Oh … and I got to visit with an old college roommate, K.C. … LOL … “the other Kent.”


Know what I sayin?


KC Contrail sized