Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression

Thomas Y. Baird

David Conrads

Tom Baird was associated for many years, and in many capacities, with the Kansas City Monarchs—as a booking agent, officer, co-owner and, finally, as sole owner of one of the most successful and innovative teams in the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues. His alliance with J. L. Wilkinson, the team’s founder, lasted almost the entire span of the Negro leagues, from the formation of the first viable league of all-black teams until the demise of black baseball following the integration of the major leagues.

Baird was born in Arkansas and played semi-professional baseball in Kansas City, Kansas. An accident in 1918 while he was working for the Long Island Railroad ended his athletic career and left him with a permanent limp. Although unable to play, he was able to make a living in sports. He operated a billiard parlor, organized the T. Y. Baird Club, a baseball team that won two city championships, and then went into sports promotion.

Baird became co-owner of the Monarchs around 1929, when Wilkinson needed to raise money to buy a portable lighting system. From 1932 to 1937, Baird functioned as the booking agent for both the Monarchs and the House of David, a traveling team connected with a religious sect based in Michigan. He became sole owner of the Monarchs following the 1948 season.

After the integration of major league baseball in 1947, the Negro Leagues went into swift decline. Baird was able to survive for a time largely through recruiting, developing and offering young black players to the majors. The Monarchs sent a total of 38 players to major league organizations, including Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige, far more than any other Negro League team.

In 1955, the era of black baseball all but over, the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City. Unable to compete with major league baseball in his own back yard, Baird sold his team after the 1955 season. He later worked for the House of David, became a scout for the Kansas City Athletics, and built a bowling center in Wyandotte County.


A version of this article previously appeared at http://www.kchistory.org/content/biography-thomas-y-baird-1885-1962-owne...

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