INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – The Missouri Mavericks announced today that Willie O’Ree, the first black player to play in a National Hockey League Game, will headline the list of VIPs in attendance when they honor the 75th anniversary of the Kansas City Monarchs’ 1942 Negro League World Series championship. Also scheduled to attend are former Kansas City Royals John Mayberry and Frank White.
“Willie O’Ree, like many of the men who played baseball in the Negro Leagues, was a pioneer in his sport. His efforts provided a pathway and inspiration for generations of kids who wanted to play professional hockey,” said Mavericks general manager Brent Thiessen. “ We could not be more excited to have Willie, along with Frank White and John Mayberry, join us for ‘Salute Weekend.’”
O’Ree, 81, broke the NHL’s color barrier on January 18, 1958 when he suited up for the Boston Bruins in Montreal against the Canadiens. He went on to play 45 games for the Bruins and recorded 14 NHL points (4g, 10a) in his career. Including his time in the NHL, O’Ree played 21 seasons of professional hockey, a majority of it spent in the Western Hockey League with the Los Angeles Blades and San Diego Gulls. He led the WHL in points twice, scored thirty goals or more four times and eventually had his number retired by San Diego.
After his playing career concluded, O’Ree worked for the NHL as its director of youth development for the diversity task force. His accolades as a player and his work in bringing hockey to a more diverse audience helped O’Ree win the Lester Patrick Award, given to individuals for exceptional contributions to hockey in the United States, in 2003 and the Order of Canada, the highest civilian award for a Canadian citizen, in 2008. O’Ree was also inducted into his hometown New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.
Fellow “Salute Weekend” VIPs John Mayberry and Frank White were successful and popular players during their Kansas City Royals tenures. Mayberry spent six seasons, from 1972-77, as the Royals’ first baseman. He enjoyed a career year in 1975 when he lead the Royals with 34 home runs, a total that remained as a club record at the time of his retirement in 1982. He also set high-water marks for his career in hits (161), doubles (38) and RBIs (106) during the ’75 season. Mayberry also hit the final home run in the history of the Royals’ Municipal Stadium on September 29, 1972.
White played his entire career with the Royals from 1973 to 1990. He built an impressive resume with Kansas City that includes a World Series title in 1985, an American League Championship Series MVP in 1980, eight Gold Glove awards, five All-Star Game appearances and having his number 20 retired by the Royals along with being inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame.
Following his retirement from playing, White went on to serve as a first base coach for the Royals and Boston Red Sox, managed the minor league Wichita Wranglers, worked as a color commentator on Royals television broadcasts, served on the coaching staff of the Kansas City T-Bones and was elected to the Jackson County Legislature in 2014.
O’Ree, Mayberry and White are scheduled to attend the Mavericks game on February 18 when the Mavs and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum team up to honor the 75th anniversary of the 1942 Kansas City Monarchs Negro League World Series championship. All three will be a part of the pregame VIP meet-and-greet at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. Admission to the meet-and-greet is available for purchase through the Mavericks’ “Salute Weekend” VIP ticket package. Anyone who already has a ticket to the game, including season ticket holders, can add the VIP experience for $30.
That night the Mavericks will wear specialty jerseys modeled after the 1942 Monarchs’ uniforms. The jerseys will be auctioned off live after the game with proceeds benefitting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Each of the three VIP guests are also scheduled to attend a private reception at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Friday, February 17.
About the Missouri Mavericks: The Mavericks are members of the Mountain Division of the Western Conference of the ECHL—the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League in North America. Founded in 2009, the Mavericks are entering their eighth season in team history at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. The Mavericks are the defending Brabham Cup winners after posting a league-leading record of 52-15-5 during the 2015-16 ECHL season, and have been honored with multiple community and league awards including the Harry S. Truman Special Community Service Recognition Award, the Bud Poile Governors’ Cup (CHL), and the CHL Franchise of the Year Award for four consecutive seasons.
About the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum: Through the inspiration of Horace M. Peterson III (1945-1992), founder of the Black Archives of Mid-America, a group of local historians, business leaders, and former baseball players came together to create the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the early 1990s. It functioned out of a small, one room office in the Lincoln Building, which is located in the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District of Kansas City, MO. It quickly incorporated, built a board of directors and staffing, and created a licensing program to support operations.
The museum’s permanent home uses 10,000 square feet of the new space. Also designed by ESA Design, the new exhibit features multi-media computer stations, several film exhibits, hundreds of photographs, Field of 12 bronze sculptures and a growing collection of baseball artifacts. The museum raised over $2 million dollars to complete design and construction of this space. It has also welcomed several thousand visitors and dignitaries since, including Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, General (Ret.) Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson, Maya Angelou, Judith Jamison, Mike Dukakis, Walter Cronkite, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Barry Bonds, Tony Larussa, Isaac Hayes, Ossie Davis, Sinbad, and many, many others.