In their short time the all-black Wichita Monrovians experienced baseball success, winning 52 of their first 60 games in the Colored Western League according to Wichita baseball hobbyist and historian Bob Rives. But perhaps an exhibition game in 1925 gets talked about the most.
The Monrovians played at their own baseball stadium near 12th and Mosley. The city’s white teams would play on a field at Island Park on Ackerman Island. Ackerman Island was a large entertainment area sitting on the Arkansas River, just south of where Exploration Place stands today.
The year prior, in 1924, esteemed Emporia author and writer William Allen White ran for governor of Kansas on a famously anti-Ku Klux Klan platform. Allen lost the election, but raised awareness about the Klan.
Reportedly, the Klan was looking for some positive press in an increasingly anti-Klan state. The Monrovians agreed to play Wichita Klan #6 in an exhibition game on Ackerman Island.
“The Monrovians would play anyone, black teams, white teams, basically any place they could get a game scheduled and that’s what they did,” Rives said.
An article from the Wichita Beacon sits in the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo. The headline reads “Only baseball is on tap at Island Park,” and goes on to say, “Strangle holds, razors, horsewhips and other violent implements of arguments will be barred.”
Research done by Rives indicates there was a good crowd at the game that was played on a hot June afternoon, with the temperature up near 102 degrees.
“It was won 10-8 by the Monrovians. It was kind of a game that was divided into two parts, the score was one to one after the first five innings then all the runs were scored in last four innings,” Rives said.
Rives thinks the pitchers got fatigued in the afternoon heat.
A clean game was played, as no violence at the ballpark was reported in the local papers. Proceeds were donated to charity, inculding Phyllis Wheatley Children’s Home.
Two Monrovians went on to play for the KC Monarchs, one of them being Thomas Jefferson “T Baby” Young, according to the Kansas African American Museum curator Carole Branda.
But the Monrovian team, according to Rives, “faded into the pages of history.”
The Klan was outlawed in Kansas later in 1925 after the state ruled they did not have an official state charter.
The Kansas African American Museum featured a display on the game between two unlikely opponents during their exhibit, “Undefeated: the triumph of the black Kansas athlete.”
For more on the segregated baseball scene in Kansas, read this article by Jason Pendleton published in the Summer 1997 issue of Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains.