The baseball Negro League was founded in 1920. It was established by Andrew “Rube” Foster, who was a former player, manager, and owner of the Chicago American Giants team. Foster’s goal was to create a league for African American baseball players, as they were not allowed to play in the established Major League Baseball (MLB) due to segregation and racism.
The Negro National League (NNL) was the first successful Negro League and was founded in 1920. The NNL was comprised of eight teams, including the Chicago American Giants, the Detroit Stars, and the Kansas City Monarchs. The league played its first game on May 2, 1920, and the Kansas City Monarchs won the first league championship that same year.
The success of the NNL led to the formation of other Negro Leagues, including the Eastern Colored League (ECL) and the Negro Southern League (NSL). In 1923, the ECL and the NNL agreed to play a World Series-style championship series, known as the Negro League World Series. The series was played annually from 1924 to 1927 and then sporadically until the 1940s.
The Negro League faced many challenges, including racism, financial difficulties, and player recruitment. However, the league continued to grow in popularity, with some teams drawing large crowds and generating significant revenue. The league also produced many talented players, including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell, who are now recognized as some of the greatest baseball players of all time.
The Negro League faced a significant challenge in 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB by becoming the first African American player to play in the league. Many Negro League players saw this as an opportunity to play in the established MLB, which offered greater opportunities and better pay. This led to a decline in the Negro League, and the last professional Negro League game was played in 1960.
In recognition of the significant contributions of the Negro League to the history of baseball, MLB has since 1997 honored Negro League players and teams with a series of initiatives. These initiatives include the retirement of Negro League player numbers, the establishment of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, and the recognition of Negro League statistics as official MLB statistics.