The Negro Leagues: A Brief History
Following the Civil War (1861-1865), baseball boomed as a popular pastime among both black and white athletes. In 1867, the National Association of Base Ball Players was formed, but from its inception, the league voted to bar black players.
A few years later, the National Association of Professional Baseball Players did not outright bar African-American players, although there was a "gentleman's agreement" among owners not to allow blacks.
With blacks yearning for a league of their own, the Negro National League was organized in 1920, followed by the Eastern Colored League in 1923. In 1924, the first all-black World Series took place.
A Negro League season consisted of about 60 to 80 league games. In addition, the teams each averaged 100 exhibition games, generally against other semi-pro squads, small-town teams, and teams with a few white major-leaguers.
Black ballplayers enjoyed exhibitions against major league teams or those with major league players. According to The Negro Baseball Leagues by David K. Fremon, from 1900 to 1950, Negro League teams playing against teams with white major-leaguers won 268 such contests. The major league-stocked teams won 168. In 1912, Smokey Joe Williams shut out the New York Giants and New York Yankees within a two-week period. In the early 1920s, the baseball commissioner, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Lands, outlawed such intra league games.
Negro Leagues' innovations included night games. By 1930, the Monarchs began traveling with a set of portable floodlights. Attendance nearly tripled because day laborers could come. White major league baseball introduced night games in 1935.
By the early 1960s, the last Negro League club had folded. The Baseball Hall of Fame was under pressure to recognize the talents of Negro League players who, undoubtedly, would have made the Hall had they been allowed to play. In 1971, Satchel Paige became the first Negro Leaguer enshrined.
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