Batter Up! 90 Years and Counting 2

The Ban Johnson League gives KC Amateurs a place to play ball

In May, the Ban Johnson League opened its 90th season of baseball in Kansas City for amateur baseball players under the age of 23.

The league was named after the organizer and first president of the American League, Ban Johnson, and plays games all over the greater Kansas City area, including the Mid-America Sports Complex in western Shawnee.

It might surprise you to learn that the league has produced a number of Major League Baseball players including David Cone, Steve Mingori, Steve Renko, Ray Sadecki, Rick Sutcliffe and Frank White.

The league started this season’s play May 31 and will have everything wrapped up by August 1 when the champion is decided in a tournament. The defending champion is Natural Baseball Academy out of Olathe.

On July 24, there will be an all-star game at Kauffman Stadium where the players have the opportunity to play at a Major League Baseball stadium. The Royals have hosted the game every year since the team started play in 1969.

The oldest franchise in the league is Milgram. Originally, it was named for the grocery store chain and since the end of the chain in 1984 it has been the Milgram Mustangs. The franchise started in 1936 and the Milgram family has been involved with Ban Johnson League baseball since that time.

Three Milgram siblings are heavily involved in the league and all three are Johnson County residents. Nancy is the president of the league, Nat is the treasurer and Sally is involved with marketing, advertising sales, special events and media relations. The three also have full time jobs in addition to working with the league.

It was grandfather Nat who originally joined the league in 1936. It was father, Les, who was heavily involved with professional sports in Kansas City and the Ban Johnson League.

Les was involved in 1954 with the committee that brought the Kansas City A’s to city for the 1955 season. He grew up on the same block as Ewing Kauffman, the original owner of the Kansas City Royals.

Les was asked by Kauffman to be on the board of directors for the Royals and was also active with the Chiefs. Early in the Chiefs tenure, Milgrams sponsored what was called the Grocery Bowl during the pre-season. Fans could get cheap tickets to the game at the stores.

Les served as president of the Ban Johnson League from 1953 until his passing in 1976.

“I grew up with the league,” says Nancy. “I was always going to games and I became active after his death. The Board asked me to become president in 1976.”

She has been leading the league ever since along with brother Nat and sister Sally.

“I have fond memories of attending games with my family ever since I can remember,” says Sally. “My father’s strong passion for the game, the players and community service influenced my desire to get involved.

“My brother (Nat) and I launched the first league newsletter when we were teenagers.”

Sally has served on the board of directors for a number of years.

Nancy has her own company Milco in addition to working with the league.

“It takes a lot of people to run the league,” she says. “We have the administrators led by Executive Director Bob McFarlane, the sponsor reps and managers.”

Sally serves as the director of special events while Nat is the treasurer.

When not helping out with the league, Sally works in advertising sales while Nat is in the banking industry.

Nancy spends a great deal of time working with the league.

“I’m involved with all the activities of the league,” she says. “I work on something about the league almost every day.”

She is involved with coordinating with the Royals about the all-star game and works with the alumni through the BJ Backers program.

The 10-team league is underway and interested fans can find more information about the league at BJBaseball.com.