Until Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, Afican Americans were shut out of the all-American Pastime: Major League Baseball. Thousands of talented athletes were excluded simply because of the color of their skin. And so they formed their own leagues. The history of the Negro Leagues is the story of legendary heroes such as Cool Papa~Bell, who some say was the fastest runner to ever steal a base, and Satchel Paige, whose fastball was called a "Bee Ball" because all the batter heard was a buzz as it zinged past him over the plate.

The players were forced to endure segregated, second-rate living conditions, but their talent, courage and determination were always first-rate. By 1960, the last of the Negro League baseball teams were disbanded. Although the heyday of the Negro Leagues was over, a few Major League stars got their start playing for the last of the Negro League teams. Ernie Banks honed his skills with the Kansas City Monarchs before going to the Chicago Cubs. The New York Giants paid $15,000 to the Birmingham Black Barons for a powerful slugger named Willie Mays. And, the record-breaking home run hitter, Hank Aaron, played for the Indianapolis Clowns before he put on a Boston Braves uniform.

Meanwhile, Jackie Robinson played second base for the Brooklyn Dodgers throughout the 1950's. His lifetime batting average was an impressive .311, and in 1962 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. This was another first. Other players with roots in the Negro Leagues but who spent the bulk of their careers in the Major Leagues who have also been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame included Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays and Roy Campanella. No other athletes who played exclusively for the Negro Leagues were placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame until the late 1960's when the rules were changed. Finally, the superstars of the Negro Leagues could get the honor they so richly deserved. Satchel Paige was the first, elected in 1971. Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard were inducted in 1972. Cool Papa Bell, Ray Dandridge, Oscar Charleston, Martin Dihigo, Monte Irvin, Pop Lloyd Judy Johnson and Rube Foster soon followed.

At last, a few of the players were recognized and included, but there are so many more exceptional players who have not been honored. Until they are, the Season will not be over.

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