Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Baseball Author to Speak

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Baseball Author to Speak

Article excerpt

The impulse to research Negro Leagues baseball is rooted in Topeka for one of the game's foremost historians.

Consequently, when Phil Dixon set out to tour 90 cities with his presentation, "The Kansas City Monarchs in Our Hometown,'' he made sure Topeka was prominent on the list.

The number 90 was derived a year ago to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Monarchs' triumph in the first Negro League World Series. And guess what? Topeka will be the 90th stop on Dixon's tour, though he has extended his discussions to include 10 more communities.

His Topeka appearance, which is free to the public, is scheduled at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Bettis Family Sports Complex and is co- sponsored by the Shawnee County Historical Society and the Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame.

For Dixon, a native of Kansas City, Kan., the visit will serve as a reminder of the six months he lived in Topeka while working for Duckwall-Alco Stores in 1980.

One day Dixon was looking at items at Packrat Antiques on S.W. 6th Street. A picture of an old baseball team caught his eye. It impressed Dixon enough to shell out $75.

When he showed the picture to the owner of a Topeka nightclub where Dixon occasionally played the trumpet, he was told of a former Negro Leagues player from Topeka he might be interested in meeting.

That player was Dink Mothell.

"He wasn't the first Negro Leagues player I ever met,'' said Dixon, "but he really gave me the inspiration to begin my research.''

The two spoke a few times -- detailed discussions that provided Dixon insight into the Negro Leagues. Mothell, a native Topekan, related stories from his 15 seasons, where he caught some of the game's all-time greats, such as Bullet Rogan. Mothell was versatile, too, playing all positions, including first base for the Monarchs' 1924 championship team.

Woven into Mothell's recollections was a genuine appreciation of the game, which fascinated Dixon.

"He talked to me about baseball in ways I'd never heard,'' Dixon said. "Dink was kind of reaching forward, when I was reaching back.''

Incredibly, Phil Dixon, his wife Kerry, and Dink Mothell all shared the same birthday, Aug. 13. Two weeks after Dixon left Topeka and returned to work in Kansas City, Mothell died. Yet the stories he shared as one of the Negro League's great pioneer players, planted a seed.

Enough that today, Dixon's work totals nine baseball books, including biographies of Rogan and Buck O'Neil. …

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