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Negro League Baseball
When Only The Ball Was White
Edsall Walker was the first black baseball player in the late 1800's, but it wasn't until 1920 that the Negro league began when renowned pitcher and owner of the Chicago American Giants Andrew "Rube" Foster called teams together in Kansas City for a meeting that would result in the forming of the Negro National League. The League began the 1920 season on May 2 with the following teams on board: Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Dayton Marcos, Detroit Stars, Indianapolis ABCs, Kansas City Monarchs and Cuban Stars.
Later that year The Negro Southern League begins play in the South. League cities include Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham, Memphis, New Orleans and Chattanooga. In 1923 Ed Bolden (owner of the Hilldale Club) and Nat Strong (Brooklyn Royal Giants owner) organize the Eastern Colored League.
The six-team league begins its inaugural season with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, Hilldale Club, Bacharach Giants, Lincoln Giants, Baltimore Black Sox and Cuban Stars (East).
In 1924 The first Negro World Series is played between the Kansas City Monarchs (Negro National League Champions) and the Hilldale Club (Eastern Colored League Champions).
Kansas City wins the series championship 5 games to 4.
In 1931 The Negro National League plays its final season before succumbing to financial pressures. Then in 1932
The Negro Southern League is the only "major" black league in operation. The league begins its seasons with only five teams — Chicago American Giants, Cleveland Cubs, Detroit Stars, Indianapolis ABCs amd Louisville White Sox.
In the East a failed effort was made to reestablish an organized league. The East-West league, which included the Baltimore Black Sox, Cleveland Stars, Cuban Stars, Hilldales, Homestead Grays and Newark Browns, failed to complete the season. The league disbanded in June. In 1933 A new Negro National League is formed. Organized by Pittsburgh bar owner, Gus Greenlee, the league launches its inaugural season with seven teams — Cole's American Giants, Monroe Monarchs, Nashville Elite Giants, Montgomery Grey Sox, Louisville Black Caps and Indianapolis ABCs.
The first East-West Colored All-Star Game is played at Chicago's Comiskey Park before 20,000+ fans. The West defeated the East 11-7. In 1937 The Negro American League is formed. The new league brings together the best western and southern teams. The NAL begins its inaugural season with seven teams — Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, Cincinnati Tigers, Memphis Red Rox, Detroit Stars, Birmingham Black Barons, Indianapolis Athletics and St. Louis Stars.
The Homestead Grays begins its 9-year reign as the champions of the Negro National League with the power-hitting tandem of Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. 1946 Jackie Robinson is signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers organization and debuts with the Montreal Royals as the first black player in organized baseball in half a century.
Legendary homerun king Josh Gibson dies at the age of 35. In 1947 Jackie Robinson made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. That year Robinson was named Rookie of the Year for the pennant winning Dodgers. Later the same year Larry Doby was signed by The Cleveland Indians, making him the first black player in the American League. Some say that breaking the color barrier in the major leagues led to the demise of the Negro Leagues, which continued until 1952. By that time all the top players had moved on and the watered down version of the Negro League folded. A lot of great players played in the Negro League and many never had the chance to play in the majors during a shameful part of American History. One of my favorite stories and players was Wilmer Fields. Wilmer started as a football player before being asked to try out for the Washington Homestead Grays. After playing 11 seasons Wilmer was called to the Army. He returned from WWII in 1946 and had his best year as a pitcher and went on to be named MVP 8 times with various teams. It wasn't until Wilmer was beyond his best years that he was offered a major league contract, which he promptly turned down. Wilmer went on to be the player rep for Negro Leaguers', trying to get them their due. Wilmer died from heart failure in the early 90's having never had the chance to showcase his talents in major league baseball and in my opinion it was baseball's loss. This is some of my personal collection of Negro League items that I've amassed over the years. If you like baseball please take the time to read more about the ones "Who played and never got paid"!! Hope you enjoy the hub.