KANSAS CITY – In 2014, Charlie Hustle CEO Chase McAnulty and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick teamed up to create a Kickstarter, a campaign to help build the local Kansas City vintage T-shirt company and create merchandise for the museum.
Following the successful launch, each continued to build their brand, McAnulty as founder and CEO of Charlie Hustle and Kendrick as president of NLBM.
This year they are joining forces again for another collection of Negro Leagues, called Salute to the Negro Leagues. The largest collection Charlie Hustle has created for the museum, the campaign launched Thursday and features several series released during Black History Month.
“I grew up writing about Jackie Robinson, fourth through seventh grade was probably the only topic I really wanted to talk about,” said McAnulty, a Kansas City native who collected vintage T-shirts growing up and founded Charlie Hustle in 2012. Those stories of the Negro leagues and black baseball, baseball lost, was something that was a piece of me and my heart. So to be able to do that from a business standpoint and what we’re good at, the merchandise is special. Using a t-shirt as a canvas to celebrate those stories is really what it all boils down to.
Thursday’s series is called the “Starting Lineup,” and the shirts showcase Negro League teams, from the Kansas City Monarchs and St. Louis Stars to the Cleveland Buckeyes and Birmingham Black Barons.
The rest of the collection includes specialty pitches for Rube Foster, the Kansas City Monarchs, Buck O’Neil and Satchel Paige, a variety of Negro Leagues stadiums – such as Forbes Field, home of the Homestead Grays – and the NLBM.
“They brought a level of trendy and cool to the Negro Leagues brand,” Kendrick said. “… They are enjoying themselves. This is what I like. We want to encourage creativity, because if you think about it, the Negro Leagues were this creative art form in the way they played. It was bold and sassy, and these designs kind of captured that.
Storytelling was the focus when McAnulty and his design team came up with the shirts for each Negro Leagues series.
“Our job is to celebrate culture, whatever it is,” McAnulty said. “Whether it’s university pride or civic pride, like the heart of KC, our job as a company is to celebrate that culture, not just put a logo on a shirt. There’s so much really good stuff with negro leagues that you could go all day. … You heard Bob. he can rattle off 30 stories in 30 seconds. Our task is to catch them.
The shirts will be sold online and in stores, with funds going to both NLBM and Charlie Hustle. Also in February, as part of Black History Month, the Royals and Royals Charities will cover costs for anyone visiting the museum this month.
“These stories surrounding the teams and players that are represented in this line will resonate with people,” Kendrick said. “That’s what makes me so excited and so proud. Feel the pride of these projects and it gives you a better understanding of how we see Negro leagues. It’s always a celebratory kind of experience, as opposed to a sad, somber experience that many people want to think might have been because it was related to segregation.
“The experience of the Negro Leagues is not a sad and gloomy experience. It is a celebration of what they have been able to accomplish in the face of social adversity. We want our licenses to convey that message. When I see young people in particular wearing these designs, I beam with pride.
Which design is Kendrick’s favorite? Well, he can’t pick just one.
“I’m sure I rock them all at some point,” Kendrick said. “They are really cool designs. They are fun. I think our Negro League followers will really like what they’ve come up with.