Jackie Robinson played second base for the Kansas City Monarchs, the longest-running franchise in the history of the Negro Leagues.
The Dodgers scouted him, Branch Rickey signed him, warned him he'd have to turn the other cheek, keep a lid on his fiery temperament. Put him in a Brooklyn uniform on April 15, 1947, making history, sending avalanche tremors through a sport that had been snow-white for almost a century.
And now, 65 years later, the Anderson Monarchs, an all-black, blue-chip team from the Marian Anderson playground, will be barnstorming to Kansas City, riding in a 1947 bus with no luggage racks, no toilet and no air conditioning.
"And no electronics!" said Steve Bandura, the program director at Anderson and the man who created a similar tour in 1997. "No cellphones, no iPads. I don't think Satchel Paige was listening to an iPod or playing 'Modern Warfare' going from town to town back in the day.
"That first tour was a tribute to Jackie Robinson and to expose these kids to different parts of the country. The mission this time is to expose the rest of the country to these kids and what they've accomplished."
Bandura has a background in marketing and he can turn a phrase as gracefully as his kids can turn a doubleplay. They are remarkable 10- and 11-year-olds. Been together since they were 7. Play baseball, basketball, soccer. Yes, soccer. Inner-city kids who won the under-11 city championship in baseball, basketball, indoor and outdoor soccer in the same year.
"In 2010," Bandura said proudly, "we had a basketball championship game at Vogt Recreation Center in the morning. Won in double overtime. Couldn't stay for the trophy presentation.
"Ran to the bus, changed uniforms on the bus, got to the indoor soccer city championship game. Won that in a shootout. Then got back on the bus, headed back to Anderson and played the first baseball game of the season. Won that. Greatest day in Monarchs history."
And if that ain't enough, his best pitcher, his best defender in soccer, his point guard in basketball, is, ta-da, a girl! Her name is Mo'ne Davis. That's moe-nay, like the French painter. Pretty as his paintings, too.
"A few years ago" Bandura recalled, "I was cleaning up after a late fall baseball game. Leftfield corner I see this little girl throwing a football. She's 7, throwing effortless spirals, then running some tough kids down and tackling them.
"I walk up to her, find out she's a cousin of one of the Monarchs. I tell her we've got basketball practice on Tuesday and she's welcome to come by and work out. I thought I'd never see her again.
"She walks into the gym, we're running a three-man weave, and by now our kids are pretty good at it. She gets in line. I tell her she can sit this drill out. She says, 'I'll try it.'
"She jumps right in, runs it like she's been doing it her whole life. It was amazing and that's when I knew she was pretty special.
"We had her tested, she's off the charts with her analytical scores. She was accepted at Springside, where she's in the fifth grade. She'd never played baseball before, but she picked it up quickly. And now she's our best pitcher.
"We played in a tournament in Rehobeth against the York Young Revolution. They were undefeated, leading the tournament in runs scored. Before the game we heard one of their kids yelling, 'They've got a girl on their team' and they were all laughing.
"Six innings and 68 pitches later, she'd pitched a complete-game shutout. And they'd been averaging 13 runs a game. She's pitched three championship games and hasn't given up a run yet. One of the other coaches said, 'I don't mind her beating us, but does she have to do it with a pink bow in her hair?'"
And now she will be part of a 3-week, 4,000-mile adventure that begins June 30 with a visit to Robinson's gravesite, watching a day game at Yankee Stadium, playing the Harlem RBI team that night.
Then it's on to Williamsport, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, two games in Chicago (one on the North Side, one on the South Side), Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and on to Kansas City in time for the All-Star Game.
They will tour the Negro Baseball Museum with commissioner Bud Selig. Major League Baseball is providing the tickets to the ballgames they will see.
"In each of the major league cities," Bandura explained, "I'm seeking out surviving Negro League players, hoping to get them down on the field, along with African-American players on the teams involved, plus our kids. The past, the present and the future."
Tickets to the All-Star Game are expensive and scarce. The Monarchs may play a team in Columbia, Mo., and stick around to watch the midsummer classic on a huge television screen in their clubhouse.
Maybe the Monarchs can be part of the Home Run Derby, shagging flies in the outfield. Then it's on to St. Louis, Louisville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Charleston, Washington, Aberdeen, home for a day and half, and then that final stop in Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on July 22.
One more fascinating angle. Bandura's son, Scott, is on the team. "He's 10," Bandura said. "This is a first for me. My own kid on the team. I have to check myself all the time, not favoring him, making sure he gets what he deserves and has earned. Most of the time, I'm too hard on him. I guess that's natural.
"He's hoping to meet Joe Mauer, when we watch the Twins play the Tigers. That's his favorite player, wears number 7, a catcher, bats left, throws right, just like he does. You can't find too many better role models."
Bandura never won a championship in his youth. And now his son's room is cluttered with trophies, 11 in 3 years. It is not all about glittering hardware for Bandura. He expects the kids to excel in the classroom. The real pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a college scholarship.
"That's our goal, get these kids to college," he said. "One of our soccer kids, Darius Madison, is a senior at La Salle High, a high school All-American, plays for the Union juniors. He's headed to the University of Virginia.
"Demetrius Jennings, he's a senior at Penn Charter. He's got a full ride to Wofford, where he'll major in pre-med."
The Monarchs represent the city's Parks and Recreation Department's yardstick for a program that offers athletic opportunities plus academic guidance. Someday those phantom plans for an Urban Youth Academy based on the same principles will become a reality. Hopefully before Jennings gets his medical degree.
You cannot sell enough cookies to finance a trip like this. Bandura got lucky when Dr. William Meyers stepped up as the major sponsor. "He's the go-to guy for sports hernias," Bandura said. "He's opening a big new facility at the Navy Yard with Core Performance physicians and he wanted to be involved in this.
"Plus ex-Gov. Ed Rendell fell in love with the project and he's helping to raise money for us. If people want more information about the trip, they can check out the website, www.philadelphiayouth.org."
Tony Vernon, a top executive at Kraft Foods, will make sure the kids get Lunchables for those long bus rides.
It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, making friends, creating memories. "Those kids from the first tour," Bandura said, "they're 26 or 27 now. They keep in touch on Facebook, the best of friends. These kids will be blogging, featuring a different kid every day."
Blogging? Just not on the bus. "I want them looking out the windows, seeing the scenery, learning about the country."