The Negro Leagues were founded more than a hundred years ago in 1920. In 2006 Congress recognized NLBM as “America’s National Negro Leagues Baseball Museum” which has allowed many past, present, and future generations to view this important part of our history. Finally, in 2020, there was a monumental announcement that the stats from the league would finally be included as part of the official MLB listings. For baseball fans and supporters of the culture everywhere, this was an important step in recognizing the sports talent of people of color. If you are new to baseball or simply a casual fan of Negro League baseball, we have a list of seven little-known facts about the league for you to enjoy.
#1 Original Negro National League Teams
The Negro National League was originally formed in 1920, however, not many people can list the names of the original teams. There were eight teams at the start of the league, all made up of African American and colored players. The list includes:
- Cuban Stars
- St. Louis Giants
- Dayton Marcos
- Chicago American Giants
- Indianapolis ABCs
- Chicago Giants
- Detroit Stars
- Kansas City Monarchs
#2 The First Season Of The Negro League Was Canceled
Due to the Chicago Race Riot in 1919, the National Guard occupied the Giants ballpark. As a result, no games could be played on the field. Rube Foster, the mind behind the Negro League and also an accomplished baseball player himself, canceled the first season for lack of play space. That didn’t stop the league from moving forward, and they went on to play their first season on a different date.
#3 Josh Gibson & His Negro League Success
There is an astounding number of Black baseball players that found fame and recognition in the Negro Leagues. Josh Gibson, however, is one of the lesser talked about but highly prolific players who participated in the Negro League. During his career that spanned 17 years, he scored over 800 home runs, 384 of which were accomplished during his time in the Negro League. He also went on to become the Negro League World Series Champion twice and achieved the title of All-Star 12 times.
#4 The Oldest Player In The MLB Was Black
Most sports players start out when they are quite young and tend to retire well before they reach middle age. You might be amazed to know that not only was the oldest player to start out in sports Black but also that he happened to be a part of the Negro League. Leroy Paige, often called Satchel, was one of the most prolific players and pitchers in the history of the Negro League. Unlike most players, he actually debuted as a rookie at the wizened age of 43. He played at the top of his game even over younger players for many years and played his last game just before his 60th birthday. Aside from being the oldest to play in an MLB game, he was the first Black man to pitch in the World Series and the American League.
#5 Negro Leagues Baseball Stamps
It is pretty common for commemorative stamps to be issued that mark special events in American history. While many sports, musical, and presidential stamps among others have been put into print, Negro League Baseball stamps were absent. In 2010, the U.S. Postal Service released stamps that were meant to all-black professional baseball leagues. The pair of stamps released was commemorative and have a face value of 44 cents. At the time of their release, this was the regular postage rate though current stamp prices have increased. The Negro Leagues were also honored with this stamp release and as a bonus, they were issued during the 20th-anniversary celebrations of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. One of the commemorative stamps features the image of Rube Foster, who is was the main person credited with the creation of the league in 1920.
#6 The Negro League Was Finally Recognized As A MLB
Although the Negro National League is well known and the stats of the players tabulated amongst baseball enthusiasts, it was not officially recognized as part of the major leagues. In 2020 the Major League Baseball association officially recognized the Negro National League as part of the Major Leagues. The stats and accomplishments of the players have been added to the official roll books which is not only a great honor, but a great sign of respect to the 3,400 players that participated in the sport from 1920 through 1948 as part of the Negro Leagues.
#7 The End of Sports Segregation & HBCU’s Caused The Negro Leagues Downfall
While it is well known that the exclusion of people of color in MLB led to the creation of The Negro Leagues, not many know inclusion was the cause of its downfall. The great depression hit America hard and affected people of color even worse. This caused the Negro League to begin unraveling which was further aided by the absence of Foster as the head of the league. Although the Negro League did rebound for a while under new ownership, HBCU’s and other graduate schools had a bittersweet effect of draining the leagues of many of their most talented players. Once MLB teams started recruiting Black baseball players and other players of color in 1946, the Negro Leagues slowly started losing their top players which eventually led to its disbandment in 1960.
Teaching The Past To Our Future Generations
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