Negro League Baseball Timeline

Timeline of Events in Professional Black Baseball

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1884Moses “Fleetwood” Walker becomes the first African-American player in major league baseball, signing with the Toledo club in the American Association.

Walker, a star catcher at Oberlin College, despite a creditable performance with Toledo, was cut from the squad after the season but continued to play in organized baseball with minor league teams.

Several African-American players were active on the rosters of white minor league teams during the period.
1885The first all-black professional team, the Cuban Giants, is founded in Babylon, New York.
1887The National Colored Base Ball League, the first attempt at a professional Negro League, is formed.

The league includes Lord Baltimores (Baltimore), Resolutes (Boston), Browns (Cincinnati), Falls City (Louisville), Gorhams (New York), Pythians (Philadelphia), Pittsburgh Keystones, Capital City Club (Washington).

Two weeks later the league will fail from lack of attendance.
1890The International League implements a ban on African-American players. The league’s ban will continue until 1946.
1895“Bud” Fowler forms the Page Fence Giants club, one of black baseball’s early powerhouse teams. Based in Adrian, Michigan the club tours the Midwest and East in their own railroad car taking on all comers, including major league clubs like the Cincinnati Reds.
1896In the famous Plessy vs. Furgeson case the United States Supreme Court upholds Louisianna’s law requiring “separate but equal” public facilities for blacks. The decision firmly establishes the docrine of racial segregation throughout the South and much of the nation.
1896The Page Fence Giants and Cuban Giants, the undisputed champions of black baseball in the East, play an historic series of games billed as a “national championship” series. The Page Fence fence club prevails, winning 10 of 15 games.
1920Andrew “Rube” Foster, renowned pitcher and owner of the Chicago American Giants, calls Midwestern team owners to Kansas City. The result of the meeting is the formation of the Negro National League.

The League begins the 1920 season on May 2 with the following teams onboard: Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Dayton Marcos, Detroit Stars, Indianapolis ABCs, Kansas City Monarchs and Cuban Stars.
1920The Negro Southern League begins play in the South. League cities include Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham, Memphis, New Orleans and Chattanooga.
Nashville Elite Giants owner, Thomas Wilson (shown at right), serves as league president.
1923Ed Bolden (owner of the Hilldale Club) and Nat Strong (Brooklyn Royal Giants owner) organize the Eastern Colored League.

The six-team league begins its inaugural season with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, Hilldale Club, Bacharach Giants, Lincoln Giants, Baltimore Black Sox and Cuban Stars (East).
1924The first Negro World Series is played between the Kansas City Monarchs (Negro National League Champions) and the Hilldale Club (Eastern Colored League Champions).

Kansas City wins the series championship 5 games to 4.
1928The Eastern Colored League disbands midseason.
1928The American Negro League is formed in the East and begins its inaugural (and only) season with the Baltimore Black Sox, Lincoln Giants, Homestead Grays, Hilldale Cub, Bacharach Giants, and Cuban Stars (East).
1929The stock market crash and onset of the Great Depression places financial pressure on all of America, including Negro League baseball.
1930Negro National League founder Rube Foster dies after an extended hospitalization.

The Kansas City Monarchs, among the more successful and prestigious clubs in black baseball, withdraws from the Negro National League and returns to independent play.
1931The Negro National League plays its final season before succumbing to financial pressures.
1932The Negro Southern League is the only “major” black league in operation. The league begins its seasons with only five teams — Chicago American Giants, Cleveland Cubs, Detroit Stars, Indianapolis ABCs amd Louisville White Sox.

In the East a failed effort was made to reestablish an organized league. The East-West league, which included the Baltimore Black Sox, Cleveland Stars, Cuban Stars, Hilldales, Homestead Grays and Newark Browns, failed to complete the season. The league disbanded in June.
1933A new Negro National League is formed. Organized by Pittsburgh bar owner, Gus Greenlee, the league launches its inaugural season with seven teams — Cole’s American Giants, Monroe Monarchs, Nashville Elite Giants, Montgomery Grey Sox, Louisville Black Caps and Indianapolis ABCs.

The first East-West Colored All-Star Game is played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park before 20,000+ fans. The West defeated the East 11-7.
1937The Negro American League is formed. The new league brings together the best western and southern teams. The NAL begins its inaugural season with seven teams — Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, Cincinnati Tigers, Memphis Red Rox, Detroit Stars, Birmingham Black Barons, Indianapolis Athletics and St. Louis Stars.

The Homestead Grays begins its 9-year reign as the champions of the Negro National League with the power-hitting tandem of Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard.
1946Jackie Robinson is signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers organization and debuts with the Montreal Royals as the first black player in organized baseball in half a century.

Legendary homerun king Josh Gibson dies at the age of 35.
1947Jackie Robinson joins the Brooklyn Dodgers and becomes the first black player in major league baseball during the modern era.

Robinson wins the National League Rookie Of The Year award as he solidifies his position in a pennant winning Dodger lineup.

Larry Doby is signed by the Cleveland Indians and becomes the first black player in the American League.
1948Satchel Paige is signed by the Cleveland Indians and becomes baseball’s all-time oldest “rookie” at the age of 42.

The Negro National League plays its final season, disbanding at the end of the year.
1949The Negro American League becomes the only “major” Negro League circuit still in operation.
1952By the end of the season more than 150 former Negro League players have been integrated into organized baseball. Without its greatest stars, and struggling with low attendance, the great era of Negro League baseball comes to a close.