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        The Negro Leagues



     A world existed for a half-century when the best black players were not allowed to play on the same field with the best white players.  This quintessentially American era of separation saw parallel major leagues develop that finally collapsed into the Major Leagues when Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

     What we call "The Negro Leagues" was actually a variety of professional baseball leagues operating in the United States comprised of black and Hispanic ballplayers.  They emerged as professional baseball became segregated in the mid-1880s; for a while, a few all-black minor league teams played, such as the New York Cuban Giants and a team out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but in 1898, the last known black team - the New York Celeron club out of the Oil and Iron League - folded its tent.

     The first known black professional team was the Cuban Giants in 1885 - in 1884, two black players (Moses Fleetwood Walker and brother Welday) played in the majors, for Toledo in the American Association.  The black ballclubs played as independent ballclubs, taking on any and all comers,  until the first black league was organized; the first successful attempt to establish a major Negro baseball league came in 1920, with the founding of the Negro National League, which operated in the Midwest and the South through 1931.

     The founder of the NNL, Rube Foster, was an overpowering pitcher and a dominant baseball executive in these critical years; he was also a great showman, and he brought his own Chicago American Giants into the NNL with seven other clubs.  Three years later, Ed Bolden formed the Eastern Colored League, and it survived into the spring of 1928.  Eastern teams played as the American Negro League in 1929; the East-West League was founded and folded in the same season - 1932.


     From 1933 through 1936, the second Negro National League ran unchallenged as a black major league.  It included teams from the East and Midwest, and from Nashville in 1933-34.  By 1936, the NNL was operating exclusively in the East.  In 1937 midwestern and southern franchises formed the Negro American League.  The NAL and the NNL co-existed through 1948; in 1949, the NAL absorbed the NNL, and survived as the last major black circuit through 1960.

     Over the years, 11 inter-league Black World Series were held. The NNL and ECL titlists played from 1924 through 1927. Champions from the NAL and NNL met from 1942 through 1948. In 1933 club owners initiated the East-West all-star game. Into the 1950s, the contest was played each summer at Chicago's Comiskey Park. Bringing the best black players together, the East-West game would attract from 20,000 to 50,000 fans, and provided an important source of revenue for the black teams.


     The various leagues generally contained six teams, though it was not uncommon for them to have a few more or less.  Over 4,000 men displayed their talents in the arenas of black baseball - while apologists for segregation suggest that many of these were of major league caliber, that is almost certainly an exaggeration.  Nevertheless, the list of MLB MVPs in the 1950s includes Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron and Roy Campanella; Cy Young winners included Bob Gibson, Don Newcombe and Mike Cuellar.  So clearly, many Negro Leaguers possessed sufficient skills to have been first-line players in the major leagues, and best of this group would have won stardom.

     Approximately three dozen of these stars shone with such magnificence as to have merited selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Some of the most famous teams were the Homestead Grays, the Birmingham Black Barons, the Atlanta Black Crackers, the Baltimore Black Sox, and the Brooklyn Royal Giants.



Negro Leaguers





Newt Allen
Sam Bankhead
David Barnhill
John Beckwith
Cool_Papa Bell
Gene Benson
Chet Brewer
Dave Brown
Larry Brown
Raymond Brown
Willard Brown
Pee_Wee Butts
Bill Byrd
Roy Campanella
George Carr
Oscar Charleston
Indians Cleveland
Phil Cockrell
Jimmie Crutchfield
Ray Dandridge
Piper Davis
Leon Day
Bingo DeMoss
Larry Demery
Lou Dials
Martin Dihigo
Dizzy Dismukes
Rap Dixon
Frank Duncan
Bill Foster
Rube Foster
Jelly Gardner
Josh Gibson
George Giles
Frank Grant
Gus Greenlee
Vic Harris
Pete Hill
Bill Holland
Sammy Hughes
Monte Irvin
Fats Jenkins
Chappie Johnson
Grant Johnson
Judy Johnson
Slim Jones
Henry Kimbro
Buck Leonard
Pop Lloyd
Dick Lundy
Biz Mackey
Dave Malarcher
Effa Manley
Ghost Marcelle
Verdell Mathis
Webster McDonald
Terris McDuffie
Hurley McNair
Jose Mendez
Bill Monroe
Dobie Moore
Ted Page
Satchel Paige
Bruce Petway
Spot Poles
Cum Posey
Alex Radcliffe
Ted Radcliffe
Dick Redding
Jackie Robinson
Bullet_Joe Rogan
George Scales
Dick Seay
Chino Smith
Turkey Stearnes
Sam Streeter
Mule Suttles
Ben Taylor
Candy_Jim Taylor
Clint Thomas
Christobel Torriente
Ted Trent
Quincy Trouppe
Frank Warfield
Willie Wells
Sol White
Frank Wickware
Smokey_Joe Williams
Artie Wilson
Jud Wilson
Nip Winters
Parnell Woods
Bill Yancey




Negro League All-Star Team


     My personal selection of the All-Negro Leagues All-Star team (with reserves):


C - Josh Gibson (Roy Campanella)

1B - Buck Leonard (Oscar Charleston)

2B - Martin Dihigo (Piper Davis, Jackie Robinson)

SS - John Henry "Pop" Lloyd

3B - Judy Johnson

OF - Oscar Charleston

OF - Mule Suttles

OF - Cool Papa Bell (Turkey Stearnes)

P - Satchel Paige (Hilton Smith, Bullet Joe Rogan)



Negro League "Gold Glovers"


     The Rawlings Gold Glove obviously wasn't around in the days of the Negro Leagues, but if it had been - and I had been making the presentation for performance throughout their careers - here are the players who would have won: 


C - Roy Campanella

1B - Showboat Thomas

2B - Bingo Demoss

SS - Pop Lloyd

3B - Oliver Marcelle

OF - Oscar Charleston

OF - Jimmie Crutchfield

OF - Clint Thomas

P - Martin Dihigo

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