Baseball is known as America’s national pastime. For author and speaker Phil Dixon, it is his passion and life’s work. Dixon will speak on “The Kansas City Monarchs and Your Hometown” at 6 p.m. tonight at the Katy Depot.
“In honor of the 1924 Kansas City Monarchs World Championship, I’ve been traveling to 90 cities to talk about the Monarchs and the role they played in the towns they visited,” Dixon said in a phone interview. “It’s been a joy to do this because there is a lot of history in baseball and it truly is my passion.”
Dixon started his tour in February 2014 and has 30 more stops to go before the completion of the tour.
“It was 90 years ago when the Monarchs won their first World Championship,” Dixon added. “That’s where the 90 cities come from.
“Every town is unique and special,” Dixon said. “Sedalia does hold some special moments though.”
The Monarchs played in Sedalia at Liberty Park Stadium five times.
“Bill Drake, who was born in Sedalia, played on the ’24 championship team,” Dixon said. “He started with a team out of Holden but played in his hometown later in his professional career.”
Drake was also a pitcher for the St. Louis Giants and the All-Nations Team.
For Dixon, one of the highlights of his journey has been the people he has met.
“I was in Maryville, Kansas, and I met a man who was 98-years-old,” Dixon said. “He was the oldest person who played against the Monarchs who is still living. He remembered the score of the game, literally every pitch that was thrown.
“It’s the people like that who keep giving me information and those treasured moments that makes me know I still have so much work to do,” Dixon added.
Dixon said that every year he decorates the graves of Satchel Page and John “Buck” O’Neill. Both men are, in Dixon’s mind, two of the greatest players in the history of baseball.
“People know their stories, and they should,” Dixon said. “I think the greatest all-around player who ever lived is Billy Logan. Chet Brewer is another.
“No one knows their stories,” he added. “That’s what I’m trying to do; give them the respect that they deserve.”
Dixon finds that his presentations tend to focus on his love of baseball and the local history of the towns he visits.
“I’m not a metrics guy (someone who does not present statistical information to explain the game),” Dixon said. “I am a storyteller. I want to bring these men and the game they played to life.
“I encourage everyone to bring their kids and grandkids to the presentation,” he added. ”I promise they won’t be bored.”
Ironically, for the man who may know more about the Monarchs and the Negro Leagues than any other, he has never been to Liberty Park or Sedalia.
“I’m really looking forward to coming to Sedalia and going to Liberty Park,” Dixon said. “I want to take in all of the history of the park and have the chance to talk to the people in the area.
“Growing up my parents were not interested in baseball,” Dixon said. “I didn’t have that kind of mentorship. It’s funny that all these years later the remarkable people I have met have given me that.”
Dixon has written numerous books on the Negro Baseball leagues. In 1992, he won the Casey Award for the best baseball book. Additionally, he worked as the director of public relations for the Kansas City Royals for three years and is a co-founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. He has served on the board of the museum for 25 years.
Seats are still available for Dixon’s presentation. Contact Jill White at the Katy Depot by calling 660-826-2932 or at www.katydepotsedalia.com.
To find out more about Dixon and his work, he may be contacted on his Facebook page or on Twitter @negroleagueman.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484