The Negro Baseball League
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Baseball is one of the most popular sports played by professional athletes in the world today. In the United States, it is referred to "America's greatest pastime." Children begin playing in formalized T-ball leagues while they are in preschool, eventually progressing to Little League teams during elementary school. Leagues for both women and men abound throughout the college level of play. The popularity of the sport in the United States supports two professional major leagues along with several minor leagues. While members of all groups and races of people are welcome to participate today, it has only been during the last half of this century that black baseball players have played in modern major leagues. Prior to this, blacks played on the Negro Baseball League until their integration into white major leagues in 1947.
In 1884, Moses and Welday Walker, two brothers, played for Toledo in the American Association. They were the first black baseball players to compete at the level of a major league. In the 1890's, baseball became segregated. "Interestingly, Major League Baseball never officially banned black players from playing. Instead, an unwritten rule stated that no black players were welcome". One black player by the name of Charlie Grant played for a short time in the Major Leagues. He was only able to do so by pretending that he was an American Indian. When his true identity was discovered, the Orioles threw him off the team.
During the following year, 1885, the first all black baseball team was formed. This team was the Cuban Giants of Long Island, New York, which was the first professional black club. Due to the racism at that time, the team chose the Cubans as their team name because there was less discrimination against individuals of Spanish descent. Subsequently, other black teams were formed, and they played against one another across the United States. Some black teams traveled around the country playing white baseball teams that included some major league players. Playing these exhibition games while on tour was referred to as barnstorming. One particular team was repeatedly successful - the Pittsburgh Crawfords. The Crawfords were the best team in the league from the start, featuring:
- Satchel Paige
- Josh Gibson
- Cool Papa Bell
- Judy Johnson
- Oscar Charleston
Around the turn of the century, there was a growing white hostility toward black people.Numerous laws were being instituted at this time to segregate blacks and whites.In nearly every aspect of life, white and black people conducted their lives separately. Baseball was no exception, and segregation continued within the sport.
Leagues of black players usually played short seasons.The seasons of white leagues were much longer. Some of the players participated in Caribbean leagues during the off-season.
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