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The Negro Leagues

You’re probably familiar with great baseball players like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, or Lou Gehrig but not as familiar with Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson or Oscar Charleston. They are just a few of the great baseball players who played in the Negro Leagues.  

The Negro Leagues was an African American baseball league that was created because   African Americans, who were called Negros at the time, were not allowed to play in the Major Leagues due to segregation. The first league, The Negro National League, was founded in 1920 by Rube Foster.

Pay was low in the Negro Leagues, to make extra money, players would barnstorm. This meant that they would travel to play exhibition games in one city one day and in another city the next in between their league games. They not only played against other clubs in their league, but major leaguers as well. Negro league teams won about sixty percent of the time.

Teams would sometimes play two or three games in one day. Major league teams barnstormed as well but because of segregation, Negro League players had a tougher time. They were unwelcome by most hotels so after traveling for hours on a bus, they would have to sleep on that bus or in the ballpark. Negro Leaguers sometimes had to travel several hundred miles to find a restaurant that would serve them. They couldn’t use many public restrooms and in some stadiums that were not allowed to use the locker rooms.

Despite the hardships,The Negro Leagues produced many great baseball players, some of whom eventually made it to the Major Leagues. Jackie Robinson played in the Negro Leagues for one season before becoming the first African American to play in the Majors.



Did you Know?

  • There are 35 Negro League players in the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Josh Gibson hit 75 home runs in one year
  • Satchel Paige once struck out twenty-four batters in a game
  • Larry Doby, broke the color barrier in the American League 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson when he was signed to the Cleveland Indians
  • In 1923, more than 400,000 fans attended Negro National League games
  • Negro league fans dressed in their Sunday best for games
  • During the off –season, many Negro League players played in Latin America
  • The Kansas City Monarchs only had one losing season
  • There is a Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri

Check These Out!

The Negro Leagues
Driscoll, Laura
Presents a history of the Negro leagues, in the form of a school report written by a young girl after a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
We Are the Ship
Nelson, Kadir
Using an "Everyman" player as his narrator, Kadir Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through the decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. Illustrations from oil paintings by artist Kadir Nelson.
The Journal of Biddy Owens
Myers, Walter Dean
Teenager Biddy Owens' 1948 journal about working for the Birmingham Black Barons includes the games and the players, racism the team faces from New Orleans to Chicago, and his family's resistance to his becoming a professional baseball player. Includes a historical note about the evolution of the Negro Leagues.
Fair Ball!
Winter, Jonah
Short biographies of fourteen outstanding players in the United States Negro Leagues, including Pop Lloyd, Oscar Charleston, and Buck Leonard.

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