Negro League Baseball

When Pittsburgh Courier sports journalist Wendell Smith recommended Kansas City Monarchs star Jackie Robinson to Branch Ricky of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, Major League Baseball would be changed forever. Racial segregation in professional baseball has long been associated with Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947. However, this momentous event belies a rich and complex history of African American baseball.

The Negro Leagues were much more than subordinates to the white Major League, with broad appeal across the country, featuring players such as Leroy “Satchel” Paige, James “Cool Papa” Bell, and Josh Gibson, whose talent was equal to or greater than their white counterparts. Serious academic study of the Negro Leagues did not commence until 1970, with the publication of Robert Peterson’s Only the Ball was White. What has resulted since is a renaissance of research into the teams, players, and their unique experiences playing the national pastime across a segregated nation. Like their white counterparts, a large part of the research into the Negro Leagues has been collecting detailed rosters and statistics, as history so often relies on records.