From left: Brett Parker, Negro League Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick, Brad Belden and Elizabeth Belden …
Kansas City Royals fan Brett Parker isn't the first person to get dressed up for a ballgame, but he's still kind of a genius for organizing "Dressed to the Nines" at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday. With the help of Negro League Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick and Major League Baseball, it should have a real shot at becoming a recurring annual event — if not a habit to be repeated many times a season.
Parker and his friends not only love going to baseball games but they also support the NLBM in Kansas City, Mo. (That place, along with the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., and the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Ky., are about the coolest places of their kind in the United States. All are must-sees for fans.)
As Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger wrote recently, the Negro League Museum is replete with photos of fans in the stands at Negro League games dressed in their 'Sunday best' clothes. Back in the day, most fans of every color — no matter if they were attending major league or Negro League games — dressed up. Actually, it seems like folks dressed up no matter where they were if they were going out, in those days.
But looking your best meant something more to black fans at a Negro League game:
Buck O’Neil talked about this often. They took so much pride in their appearance. When a kid signed with the Negro Leagues, often from a job working a cotton field, his teammates took him straight to the tailor for two suits. The kid would sign for them, take the suits, and when he got his first check he’d go back and pay for the suits.
Fans were the same way. Games were often on Sunday afternoons, so fans were coming straight from church. No time to change clothes, and besides, why not go looking your best?
“There was nothing recreational about it, it was the social event of the week,” Kendrick says. “And in the African-American community, it was a way to dignify themselves.”
Parker and friends started dressing in suits, dresses and hats for the Jackie Robinson Day game in 2012, which makes sense, given the Negro League link. It makes even more sense for "Dressed to the Nines" to be it's own day. It makes even more sense for fans to dress up on any random Sunday. Not only does it keep us in touch with our past (a natural reason people love baseball in the first place), but it's just plain classy. And there's nothing wrong with restoring a little class to this world.
Check the #Dresstothenines hashtag on Twitter for more pics from the game.
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