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.
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.
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.
here to view the Negro League Memrobilia