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The Story of the Negro Leagues. Angelica Robinson & Jim Madern. Try to imagine post World War II baseball without the black baseball stars.

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the story of the negro leagues

The Story of the Negro Leagues

Angelica Robinson & Jim Madern

Try to imagine post World War II baseball without the black baseball stars.
  • Obviously all great black baseball players were not born after 1947 when Jackie Robinson re-integrated major league baseball. They were always there, just required by custom and circumstance to play in their own separate leagues.
This period of separation is remote from the memory of the majority of the current populace. Today’s younger generation, as well as most older generations now, do not fully understand the sociological factors which prohibited black and white baseball players from engaging in competition together.
During the half-century of dual baseball development, over 4,000 men displayed their talents in the arenas of black baseball, most of which were of major league caliber.
  • Many of them possessed skills to have been first-line players in the major leagues, and the best of them could have won stardom.
  • Finally, approximately three dozen of these stars shone with such magnificence as to have merited selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Still, the greats and the near-greats and the not-so-greats where there, unnoticed by the vast majority of America, until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 and opened the game of Major League Baseball to all men, regardless of the color of their skin.
Baseball was originally a “gentleman’s game” played by members of rival athletic clubs for recreation. In the aftermath of the Civil War, baseball enjoyed a great surge in interest, activity and growth. Americans of all classes, creeds and races joined in the game that became our national pastime.
  • Baseball was then still an amateur sport and some black Americans played on all-black ball-clubs while others played on integrated teams.
However, black ballplayers were excluded from participation by the National Association of Baseball Players on December 11, 1868 when the governing body voted unanimously to bar “any club which may be composed of one or more colored persons.” This was the first appearance of an official “color line” in baseball.
When baseball attained professional status the following season, pro teams were not bound by the amateur association’s ruling, and during the 19th century black ballplayers appeared on integrated teams and some black teams played in integrated leagues.
  • Two brothers, Moses Fleetwood Walker and Welday Walker, played in the major leagues in 1884. But gradually, black players began to be excluded from the white leagues and by the beginning of the new century, their were no black players in organized baseball.
However, black Americans continued to play baseball. By necessity they played on all-black teams and eventually in all-black leagues. The first black professional team was the Cuban Giants in 1885, but the teams played as independent ball clubs until the first black league was organized in 1920.
That year Rube Foster, the father of black baseball, founded the Negro National League, where he played a prominent leadership role.
  • The first successful organized Negro League was established on February 13, 1920, at a YMCA in Kansas City, Missouri.
The depression years were especially difficult times for black baseball. The Stock Market crash was the cause of the American Negro League playing it final season, due to financial pressure.
  • In 1933, the second Negro National League was formed, and was the only black professional league operating until 1937.
During 1947-1960 the African-American leagues had less impact on the people after segregation was dismissed in court. This and other factors led to the end of the black major leagues in 1960.
As in the white major leagues, the Negro leagues had their own World Series.
  • The black teams also began an all-star game competition. The game was known as the East-West game.
  • This game was considered more important than the World Series and annually attracted between 20,000-50,000 fans.