James Leslie Wilkinson was born on this date in Algona, Iowa; 1878. He was not just the white high profile owner of Negro League baseball’s Kansas City Monarchs, but a major contributor to all of professional baseball. The Monarchs were one of the initial teams in the first official Negro baseball league formed in 1920; the Negro National League (NNL). When the NNL declined during the economic depression of the 1930’s, Wilkinson kept the team together through playing semi-pro and local teams in towns throughout the mid-west from Canada to Mexico. He was involved in the forming of the Negro American League (NAL) in 1937. Under Wilkinson’s ownership, the Monarchs won ten Negro League pennants and two of the eleven Negro League World Series played (1924 and 1942).Five years before the first night game was played in Major League baseball, Wilkinson had developed a portable lighting system that travelled with his team that allowed it to play night baseball. Before Major League baseball created a minor league system to develop players, Wilkinson was using his other travelling teams to prepare players for the Monarchs
He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.