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The Negro Leagues: A Brief History

In the first half of the twentieth century, the Negro Leagues reminded America that even segregation and discrimination could not stop a love for the national pastime. The Negro Leagues—referring to the National Negro League as well as the Negro Southern League, Eastern Colored League and Negro American League, among others—existed officially from 1920 until 1962. They were professional clubs, barnstorming, playing competitive games among themselves, exhibition games against major-league teams, and using major-league stadiums when the ‘home’ team was on the road. The first Negro World Series, between the Kansas City Monarchs and the Hilldale Club, featured games in stadiums all around the country. (Kansas City won, 5-4.)


Exhibition and all-star games between Negro League and major-league teams proved that Negro League players were just as good as major league players, although statistical comparison is difficult. Both black and white fans enjoyed the all-star games, which often pitted such legendary players as Satchel Paige against the likes of Bob Feller.

The Negro Leagues ceased to function effectively after the early 1950s. This was due mainly to the integration of Major League Baseball, both in the players (Jackie Robinson and all who came after him), and in the fan base. While the integration of Major League Baseball was undoubtedly a positive step towards equality in this country, the Negro League Baseball website points out that Negro League ball clubs were a vital part of the black American economy, both highly profitable and serving as a cultural unifier among black communities. The loss of that institution meant that professional baseball was no longer a black-owned enterprise.

A timeline of the Negro Leagues’ history follows; For further reading, the Negro League Baseball website, at www.negroleaguebaseball.com, is an excellent resource. A history of the Leagues is available at http://www.negroleaguebaseball.com/history101.html, and served as the primary resource for this piece.


Time Line

1867: The National Association of Base Ball Players is formed. They ban black athletes, but some players make it into the minor leagues anyway.

1880s: The first independent, all-black teams come into existence, hundreds will follow.

1884: Moses Fleetwood Walker becomes the first black player in a major league franchise, in Toledo, Ohio.

1887: The League of Colored Base Ball Clubs formed. It dies out after just one week, but sets the stage for other leagues among black baseball teams.

1890-1900: Major league clubs increasingly bar black players.

1920: The Negro National League is born, the brainchild of Andrew ‘Rube’ Foster and the first fully functional all-black league. The Negro Southern League is also formed.

1923: The Eastern Colored League is formed.

1924: The Kansas City Monarchs (Negro National League) and the Hilldale Club (Eastern Colored League) play the first Negro World Series. Kansas wins, 5-4 (and one after-dark tie.)

1931: The Negro National League ends.

1933: The second Negro National League is formed. It hosts the first East-West All-Star game, which in coming years would be wildly popular at Comiskey Park.

1937: The Negro American League is formed.

1946: Jackie Robinson signs with the Dodgers, breaking color barrier. Slowly other teams become integrated; the Negro Leagues’ top players begin to leave for the MLB. 1949: The Negro National League disbands.

· ·

1950-51: Due to integration of Major League Baseball, the Negro Leagues are effectively defunct.

1962: The Negro American League disbands, officially ending the era of the Negro Leagues.

Negro National League history: http://www.geocities.com/prosportshistory/nnl2history.html
Washington Nationals: http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WNL/
Washington Senators Baseball: http://www.cjis.com/players.htm
The Baseball Almanac: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/
Negro League Baseball: www.negroleaguebaseball.com
Homestead, PA History: http://www.15122.com/HOMESTEADHISTORY/grays.htm
The Negro League Baseball Players Association: http://www.nlbpa.com

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