Negro Leagues historian Phil Dixon, 63, has published everything from books to photo albums to baseball cards over his decades of research, taking aim at misconceptions he feared distort the leagues' legacy.
A common assumption, Dixon has found, is that the Negro Leagues were second-class, home to a few big stars that few fans ever got to see.
So, he and other historians have unearthed newspaper articles, photo archives, box scores - all manner of artifacts to paint an accurate picture of the leagues.
"I tried to break a lot of these long-held beliefs," Dixon said. "Probably the greatest one was, 'Too bad nobody ever saw these guys.' That is a big lie."
In reality, the Negro Leagues came to rival their MLB counterparts in attendance and in talent, Dixon said, overcoming the very discrimination from which they were created.
"It's all built on one simple principle," Kendrick explained. "You won't let me play with you? Then I'll create my own."
As Black communities in Northern industrial cities grew during the Great Migration of the 1920s, which saw millions of African Americans flee terror and oppression in the South, Negro League clubs became a cultural touchstone, a place where inequality and injustice seemed to fade nine innings at a time.
"Baseball had been this catalyst that sparked economic growth in many urban communities across the country," Kendrick said. "Essentially, wherever you had a successful Black baseball team, you can rest assured you had a thriving Black economy."
There were ups and down. The Great Depression forced the original Negro National League, which had been guided by the "father of Black baseball," Rube Foster, to fold. From 1927 to 1942, no official Negro World Series was held.
But Black teams pushed on, forming another Negro National League and a Negro American League in the 1930s while cultivating iconic players such as Paige (the whimsical right-handed pitcher with a blazing fastball and wicked repertoire of breaking balls), Gibson (historians can't agree on the number of home runs he hit, though the Hall of Fame claims it to be "almost 800"), O'Neil (who became MLB's first Black coach) and eventually Jackie Robinson (who played his lone Negro League season in 1945).
All that success ultimately became the leagues' undoing. After Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947, most promising Black players began entering MLB's minor league system, diluting the Negro Leagues' talent pool. By the end of the 1950s, both major Negro Leagues were gone for good.
"It was good for the soul of our country," Kendrick said of baseball's integration. "It moved us in ways socially that we never fathomed. But it is bittersweet. There is always a cost to progress."
In the Negro Leagues' case, Dixon believes their reputation was diminished over time, thriving Black institutions mistakenly remembered as a low-tier afterthought.
"I think a lot of what we believe about the inferiority of Black teams is really social conditioning," he said. "We are culturally conditioned with baseball history. A lot of the things we believe are how we've been conditioned to believe. It's hard to break away from that."
This is where Dixon draws parallels between the Negro Leagues and today, raising questions of racial biases and subconscious prejudices that have existed in baseball for the last 100 years - and in society for much longer than that.
"The more they portray the history, talk about the history of baseball, the way you portray that history gives a perception of racism," he said. "I can't explain it. The history has been very biased in its presentation."