Back in the day, American baseball excluded players of African-American descent from Major League Baseball and also in its lower Minor Leagues up until 1947. Racial segregation in professional baseball was called a “gentleman’s agreement”- an arrangement or understanding which is based upon the trust of both or all parties, rather than being legally binding- because there was no written agreement even at the highest level of organized baseball, the major leagues. But there was a vote in the minor league in 1887 that was against allowing new contracts with African-American players within its league which sent a powerful strike that eventually led to the disappearance of African-Americans from the sport’s other minor leagues later that century, including the lower minor leagues. When segregation was in full effect during the early 20th century, many African-American baseball clubs were established, during the 1920s to 1940s there were several Negro Leagues. During this period of time some light-skinned Hispanic players, Native Americans, and native Hawaiians were able to play in the Major and Minor Leagues. The segregation was broken for good when Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946. In 1947, both Robinson in the National League and Larry Doby with the American League’s Cleveland Indians appeared in games for their teams. By the late 1950s, the percentage of African-American players on Major League teams was equal to or greater than of the main population.
The beginning of segregation started during the baseball season of 1867. On October 16, the Pennsylvania State Convention of Baseball in Harrisburg denied admission to the “colored” players. Major League Baseball’s National League, founded in 1876, had no African-American players in the 19th century, except for a one that was recently discovered, William Edward White, he played a single game in 1879 and he passed for being white. In 1884, the American League had two black players, Moses (Fleetwood) Walker his brother Weldy Walker; both of them played for the Toledo Blue Stockings. The year before, in 1883, National League player Cap Anson had threatened to have his Chicago team sit out an exhibition game against the minor league Toledo Blue Stockings if Toledo’s Fleet Walker played. Anson gave up, but not before saying the “N word” on the field and swearing that his team would not play in such a game again. On July 14, 1887, the high-minor International League voted to ban the signing of new contracts with African-American players. It was a 6-to-4 vote, the league’s teams that were completely white voted in favor and teams that had at least one black player voted in the negative.
The Negro leagues were United States professional baseball leagues comprising teams mostly made up of African Americans and, to a lesser extent, Latin Americans. The Negro National Leagues were founded in 1920 by Rube Foster. The NNL lasted through 1931, mostly in the midwest, accompanied by the major Eastern Colored League for several seasons to 1928. National and American leagues. Negro leagues were established in 1933 and 1937 which went on until integration. The Negro Southern League operated consecutively from 1920, usually at a lower level. None of them, were members of organized baseball, the system led by Commissioner Landis from 1921. Until 1946, professional baseball in the United States was played in two very racially segregated league systems, one on each side of the color line. Most of that time there were two high-level “Negro major leagues” with a championship playoff or all-star game, between the white major leagues.
Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby
The color line was breached when Rickey, with Chandler’s support, signed the African American player Jackie Robinson in October 1945, intending for him to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After a year in the minor leagues with the Dodgers’ top minor-league affiliate, the Montreal Royals, Robinson was called up to the Dodgers in 1947. He experienced horrible nicknames and death threats and got off to a slow start. However, his athleticism and skill earned him the first ever Rookie of the Year award, which is now named in his honor. Less well-known was Larry Doby, who signed with Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians that same year to become the American League’s first African American player. Doby, a more low-key figure than Robinson. Due to their success, teams gradually integrated African Americans on to their rosters. Prior to the integration of the major leagues, the Brooklyn Dodgers led the integration of the minor league teams. A couple years after his 1947 debut, Doby would become the first American player of African descent to appear for the Detroit Tigers, on April 10, 1959