The History of the Negro Baseball League
During the late 1800’s, blacks and other minority ethnic backgrounds were excluded from playing professional baseball in the major leagues. The Supreme Court even supported such rulings as segregation allowing the systematic removal of men of color from the major leagues. The Jim Crow Laws of the South, was the catalyst behind the racial hatred, and prevention of blacks playing professional baseball in the major leagues. This hatred, inspired a man in 1920 named Andrew Rube Foster to form the Negro Baseball League. Rube Foster was a brilliant businessman and baseball player in his time . The league was made up of 72 teams across the country. It has been written that during the era of the Negro Baseball League, black players played a daring and more exciting game of baseball.
The major league owners would go to the Negro league games to study the black players techniques. The bunt, the hit and run were a style of play invented by the black baseball player, intrigued the white scouts. It has been told that the baseball helmet was invented by a former black baseball player. These innovative ideas have had a profound effect on how professional baseball is played today.
Prior to the signing of Jackie Robinson, the Negro Baseball League popularity had grown to where the crowds began to show up to the games in record numbers, even the black stadiums were to small to hold these crowds. The major leagues owners saw the economic benefits, so they allowed the Negro league teams to use their stadiums when the major league teams were away. Even though the Negro Baseball League grew in favor of the people, the white major league owners refuse to allow blacks to play on their teams. The economic pressures of the depression during the 40’s continued its toil on America; the black owners of the Negro leagues could not weather the economic storms so they sold their teams off. During this time white businessman primarily owned the Negro baseball teams.
In spite of the economic hardships the Negro baseball player endured, their love for the game over shadowed the unfairness displayed, the professional Negro Baseball League continued on. During the early 1940’s the popularity of the Negro league had grown to the extent where the league became a threat to the survival of the major leagues. The Negro league players were faster bigger and just as talented as the whites in the major leagues if not more.
The major league owners knew that they had to do something, the awesome talent displayed by the Negro league player’s could know longer be ignored because of their skin color. In spite of how the major league owners personally felt, the economical benefits was to good to turn down. In 1947 after 60 years of denial the major leagues signed a black baseball player (Jackie Robinson). Even though Jackie Robinson wasn’t the first black baseball player to play in the major leagues he was the first black to play since the “Gentlemans Agreement”. Most people do not know that the first black baseball player to play in the major leagues was Moses Fleetwood Walker for the (Toledo Stockens). Blacks played along whites in the major leagues during the 1870, and 80’s until 1887.
The fact of the matter is for almost 6 decades, the black professional baseball player was systematically excluded from playing in the so called the American sport. It is said that major league baseball was at its best during the Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Ted Williams era. Impossible! How could it have been, when for some sixty years, some of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game of baseball were excluded from playing in the major league because of the color of their skin.
We will never know what impact the black professional baseball players would have had on the major league during 1887 thru 1947, had they been able to play in the major league. America has been robbed of ever knowing, who were the greatest players to ever play professional baseball. Today we are left with nothing more than memories, an endless end of what ifs.
Sadly to say, for over 31 years since the fading away of the Negro Baseball League, the owners failed to preserve the rights of the teams and it’s players. Due to that era in judgment, the public has exploited the history of the Negro Baseball League and its players for personal financial gain. Billions of dollars have been made on the history of the Negro Baseball League since 1960 without the consideration of the men who made it all possible. Sadly to say the economic abuse stills continues.
Today, less than 225 players who played in the Negro Baseball League are still living. In Spite of the billions made, little or no money has been awarded to the surviving players; however, these great men and their experiences continue to be an American treasure; they truly helped form and build organized baseball into the great sport that it is today.