Amad Andrews wanted his Little League baseball players to don more than a uniform when they took the field at Robinson Park in Pasadena this season.
The coach wanted the 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds to wear a piece of history.
So, rather than opting for the Dodgers, Angels or another common nickname, Andrews turned back the clock and chose the Kansas City Monarchs.
Andrews said his motivation was simple: He wanted to honor Jackie Robinson, who grew up about two blocks from the park that serves as home to the West Pasadena Little League.
He also wanted to educate children about the Hall of Famer’s career before he broke baseball’s color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The timing could not have been better.
Today, 17 players and executives from the black baseball era will be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
About 80% of the 210 kids who play in the West Pasadena Little League are black, according to league President Andre Hunter. When Andrews proposed making his team the Monarchs this season, Hunter said there was no hesitation to implement the idea.
“I felt it was a steppingstone in the right direction not only for the kids’ sake but for all the parents and the people in our community,” he said. “Now we have everyone asking, ‘Who are the Monarchs?’ ”
That was the first question Andrews’ players asked last spring when he told them they would not be the Twins, as they were last season.
“I gave them a little history lesson and they bought into it,” said Andrews, 44, who was born and raised in Pasadena. “They’re proud to wear the jersey.”
On a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon earlier this summer, Monarchs players took a break from a pickup game and spoke about their team. The kids said they felt a connection to players such as Robinson, Satchel Paige and others who played for the Monarchs.
“I feel like I’m playing a long time ago,” said Amad Andrews Jr., 9.
Victor Akili Johnson and Jaycee Simpson, both 9, and Tyrek Adams 8, loved the white uniforms that featured red trim and a red KC logo on the front with MONARCHS emblazoned in red across the back. The red KC logo also adorned their white caps.
“They’re tight,” Tyrek said of the uniforms.
Parents of the players liked the look and the message.
“It helps them remember where we came from, what we were involved in in history,” said Tyra Adams, Tyrek’s mother.
Throughout the season, teams from West Pasadena and other leagues peppered Andrews and his players with questions about the Monarchs.
Hunter, the league president, said reaction has been so positive, West Pasadena next season might add the Brooklyn Dodgers as further homage to Robinson and possibly the Homestead Grays as a tip of the cap to another noteworthy Negro leagues team.
Larry Root, a longtime West Pasadena Little League administrator, is all for it.
“Sometimes, to do history justice, you have to bring it into the present,” Root said. “A lot of times, history dies unless you bring it to the forefront.”
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Monarchs to the majors
After Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Dodgers in 1947, his former Negro league team continued to be the major leagues’ favorite source for African American talent. The Kansas City Monarchs sent 18 players to the majors, more than any other Negro league team. The Monarchs in the majors:
*--* Player Pos. MLB club MLB debut Jackie Robinson 1B Brooklyn Dodgers April 15, 1947 Hank Thompson 2B St. Louis Browns July 17, 1947 Williard Brown OF St. Louis Browns July 19, 1947 Satchel Paige P Cleveland Indians July 9, 1948 Connie Johnson P Chicago White Sox April 17, 1953 Ernie Banks SS Chicago Cubs Sept. 17, 1953 Gene Baker 2B Chicago Cubs Sept. 20, 1953 Curt Roberts 2B Pittsburgh Pirates April 13, 1954 Elston Howard C New York Yankees April 14, 1955 Bob Thurman OF Cincinnati Reds April 14, 1955 Frank Barnes P St. Louis Cardinals Sept. 22, 1957 Pancho Herrera 1B Philadelphia Phillies April 15, 1958 Hank Mason P Philadelphia Phillies Sept. 12, 1958 George Altman OF Chicago Cubs April 11, 1959 Lou Johnson OF Chicago Cubs April 17, 1960 Walt Bond OF Cleveland Indians April 19, 1960 J.C. Hartman SS Houston Colt .45s July 21, 1962 Ike Brown OF Detroit Tigers June 17, 1969
Source: The Negro Leagues Book