A team of all-star baseball players from the North Platte area, plus a ringer from Denver, squared off against the Kansas City Monarchs in 1922. The Monarchs were led by Wilber "Bullet" Rogan. Rogan was renowned for his hitting and for his pitching. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
On that day, North Platte recruited a pitcher from Denver to help them against Rogan and the Monarchs – the premier team of the Negro Baseball League. But North Platte was no match. The Monarchs rolled to wins by scores of 14-1 and 11-1.
Those in attendance at the Lincoln County Historical Museum Tuesday night learned about some of the rich history of America's pastime when they saw "The Kansas City Monarchs In Our Hometown," a presentation by historian and author Phil Dixon.
The doubleheader in North Platte against the Monarchs were held Sept. 25, 1922.
Dixon, a lifelong baseball fan from Kansas City, is on a tour of 200 cities where the Monarchs once played. From North Platte, he headed to Colby and Norton, Kan.
The Monarchs played from 1920-65, and generated dozens of major league baseball players in the later years. Former Monarch Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, integrating Major League Baseball in 1947.
Dixon began with an overview of the Monarchs. He said they brought two lasting innovations to the sport -- they were the first baseball team to play at night. They carried their own lighting system with them on the road.
And, they were also the first team to travel by bus. Every other team traveled by train at that time.
The Monarchs went on barnstorming tours in addition to playing their Negro League schedule. On the barnstorming tours, like the one in 1922 that brought them to North Platte, the Monarchs played town teams, groups of the best players from the area.
The Monarchs also played an exhibition team called the House of David, a religious group known for their long hair and beards that fielded Nebraska native and Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Dixon said the Monarchs played a game against the House of David in 1935 in Elwood.
Dixon said in the early 1940s, the great St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Dizzy Dean put together a team that played the Monarchs to raise money for the war effort. One game took place in Oxford, Neb.
Dixon also talked about the great Monarch players, such as Robinson, who became a superstar in the major leagues and a Hall of Fame player.
Robinson lifted the Dodgers into prominence, but Branch Rickey, the Dodger general manager, never paid the Monarchs any compensation for Robinson.
Thus, while the Monarchs had the most Major League Baseball signees of any Negro League team, Robinson was the only Monarch to play for the Dodgers because of the financial slight.
Dixon also talked about legendary Monarch pitcher Satchel Paige, as well as two lesser-known greats who went to the majors soon after Robinson -- Willard Brown and Hank Thompson.
Brown and Thompson both signed with the St. Louis Browns after Robinson signed with the Dodgers.
And, Negro League player Larry Doby followed by going to the Cleveland Indians, the first black to play in the American League.
The presentation ended with the poem, “The Stars That Didn’t Shine.”