Automotive marketing tie-ins can sometimes seem too forced or obscure to really grab the attention of the jaded masses, but there was no way we were letting this idea pass unmentioned. Toyota was piecing together an advertising campaign to mark the launch of its 2020 Highlander SUV when its agency, Burrell Communications Group, crafted a spot called “Home Team” that recognizes this year’s 100th anniversary of Negro League baseball. The spot was taped in part at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, and features Jim Robinson, who played for the Kansas City Monarchs from 1956 through 1958, serving a stint as team captain. In the commercial, Robinson plays the Highlander-driving family’s patriarch.
The Monarchs own a hallowed place in baseball lore as the Negro Leagues’ longest-running franchise, with the team’s roots reaching all the way back to 1920, and the Monarchs continuing play as late as 1965. The Monarchs owned a portable lighting system that it took along on road trips, allowing night games to be played on remote field, a full five years before Major League Baseball lit up its first ballpark at night. The Monarchs sent 13 players to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, more than any other Negro Leagues team, including the immortals Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige.