Baseball Integration Timeline
A colleague in the Commissioner’s Office asked me to work up a Jackie Robinson timeline, which soon extended to a timeline of baseball’s integration.This endeavor interested me and I hope it will grab you too. This outline is no substitute for a broader understanding of the African American experience in baseball, or in society at large. But it does provide an entry point, and I hope that you will consider adding entries to it, or following the supplied links, most of them from within Our Game (some may not work by clicking and may require copying into your browser). A fine overview of the subject–indeed the best I know–is Jules Tygiel’s “Black Ball,” which ran in this space over five days last week, commencing with http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/03/16/black-ball/.
1820: The slave Henry Rosecranse Columbus Jr. plays baseball in Kingston, NY (slavery not abolished in New York State until 1827). http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/12/26/did-african-american-slaves-play-baseball/
1831: William Lloyd Garrison begins publication of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator. Also, Nat Turner leads the most successful slave rebellion in U.S. history.
1840s: African Americans play baseball near Madison Square. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2011/11/28/blood-and-base-ball/
1847: Frederick Douglass begins publication of the abolitionist newspaper The North Star.
1850s: Slaves play baseball in the south, as attested by several elderly African Americans interviewed by WPA writers in 1930s. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/mesnquery.html; search full text for “baseball”
1855: Two African-American Clubs, the St. John’s Club of Newark and the Union club (home unknown) played a match game in Newark, New Jersey on October 23, rained out after two innings – Newark Daily Mercury, October 24, 1855.
1857: In Dred Scott v. Sandford, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds slavery.
1858: The Hunter club, of Flushing, NY, defeats Jamaica, New York’s Henson club (both black) by fifteen runs.
1859: African Americans form three clubs in the Brooklyn area: the Unknown of Weeksville, the Henson of Jamaica, and the Monitor of Brooklyn; these will be followed by the Uniques and the Union, both of Williamsburgh. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2011/11/30/blood-and-base-ball-part-3/
1861: Civil War commences with action at Fort Sumter, SC; Abner Doubleday did not start baseball, but by firing the first Union shot in response to the Confederate barrage here, he did commence the Civil War.
1863: Emancipation Proclamation issued.
1865: Luther B. Askin of Northampton, MA. plays on an otherwise white team, the Florence Eagles.
1866: Civil Rights Act of 1866 is passed by Congress over Andrew Johnson’s presidential veto. All persons born in the United States are now citizens.
1867: Color line drawn at National Association of Amateur Base Ball Players meeting in Philadelphia. Acting chairman James Whyte Davis of the Knickerbockers recommends the exclusion of African-American clubs from representation in the Association, saying, “It is not presumed by your committee that any club who have applied are composed of persons of color, or any portion of them; and the recommendations of your committee in this report are based upon this view, and they unanimously report against the admission of any club which may be composed of one or more colored persons.” By way of explanation, the DeWitt Base Ball Guide for 1868 adds, on page 85, “If colored clubs were admitted there would be[,] in all probability, some division of feeling, whereas, by excluding them no injury could result to anybody….” http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/11/12/drawing-of-the-color-line/
1868: The Eurekas and Aldephi clubs, of Nyack, NY, play for the “colored championship.” The “Eurekas” defeat the “Adelphis” by a score of 43 to 13.
1869: First instance of a black club playing against a white one. The colored Mutuals as well as the colored Alerts (both of Washington, DC) played games that year against the Washington Olympics, a top-ranked white club whose co-founder and president was Abraham G. Mills, later a National League president and head of the Special Commission (on baseball origins) of 1905–07. Playing for the black Mutuals was a son of Frederick Douglass. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2011/12/02/blood-and-base-ball-part-5/. Also in this year: The Union club of Catskill, NY (black) defeats the Independent club of Kingston, NY (white) by a score of 36 to 7. Ex-senator William V. Fiero’s black servant captained the Catskill nine.
1870: The Mutual club, of Wilmington, NC, and the Mutual Club, of Washington, DC, agree to play for the colored championship of the United States. Also in this year: The Cambria club, of Providence, RI, dominates local amateur base-ball. The “Cambrias” cross bats with white and black teams at Dexter Training Ground. In Jersey City, meanwhile, on August 31, when a scheduled match fails to take place, eight members of the Champion Club of Jersey City play a nine selected “without respect to age or color.” The game causes much comment, as reported in the Evening Journal (Jersey City) on the following day.
1874: Graphic illustrator Solomon Eytinge, Jr. creates for Harper’s Weekly the first known visual representation to imagine baseball segregation: “Base Ball in Blackville.”
1875: William Fisher (a “professional pitcher” for the Chicago Unique club, black) is hired by Winona, Minnesota’s Clipper Base Ball Club (white). Fisher pitches against the Janesville, WI, Mutuals, defeating them by a score of 13 to 7. Later, the black hurler confesses to throwing a game against the Red Caps for $250.
1877: With the Compromise of 1877, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes withdraws federal troops from the South in exchange for being elected President. The compromise formally ends the Reconstruction Period.
1878: Bud Fowler pitches for an integrated club, the Chelseas, and defeats the Boston Red Stockings of the National League in an exhibition contest. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/03/19/thinking-robinson-part-2/
1879: William Edward White, a student at Brown University and the son of a Georgia slaveholder and his black house servant, plays first base in a game for the Providence Grays of the National League, against visiting Cleveland Blues. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/03/19/thinking-robinson-part-2/
1883: During the St. Louis Black Stockings championship season, Henry Bridgewater’s team plays black and white semi-professional and amateur nines in Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and Upper Canada.
1884: Brothers Moses Fleetwood Walker and Weldy Wilberforce Walker play in major leagues with Toledo entry in American Association (a major in the period 1882-91). They are the last blacks in MLB until Jackie Robinson in 1947. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2014/08/20/out-at-home-part-3/
1885: In August three teams (the Keystone Athletics of Philadelphia, the Manhattans of Washington DC, and the Argyles of Babylon NY) combine to form the Cuban Giants, the most famous and influential of 19th-century black professional teams. Also in this year: The Rough and Ready Club, of Wilmington, NC, defeat the Blue Ridge nine for the local black women’s championship by a score of 18 to 0. Amelia Bradley captains the “Rough and Readys.” Also in this year: Norman Van Dyke covers shortstop for the Perth Amboy club, of Rahway, NJ (white). In 1887, Van Dyke would play for the Trenton Cuban Giants.
1887: Blacks are barred from signing new contracts in the international League, although several black players are “grandfathered in” for a few years. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2014/08/18/out-at-home/
1889: The Cuban Giants represent Trenton, N.J., in the (otherwise white) Middle States League. Over the next few years several other all-black teams play in minor leagues, the last being the Celoron, N.Y., Acme Colored Giants of the 1898 Iron & Oil League.
1892: On October 15 Charles Leander “Bumpus” Jones pitches a no-hitter in his first major league game for the Cincinnati Reds. Evidence now suggests he was an African American who passed as white during his baseball career. http://agatetype.typepad.com/agate_type/2014/01/bumpus-jones.html
1895: The all-black Page Fence Giants win 118 of 154 games, with two of their losses coming against the major league Cincinnati Reds. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/12/28/sol-white-recalls-baseballs-greatest-days/
1896: In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds de jure racial segregation of “separate but equal” facilities. The decision upheld the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities. Homer Plessy, a Creole of color, had challenged local custom in 1892. The 30-year-old Plessy was jailed for sitting in the whites-only train car of the East Louisiana Railroad. Plessy had been a member of the black Pickwick Base Ball club in the late 1880s.
1899: Bill Galloway becomes the last African American in Organized Baseball, playing five games for Woodstock, Ontario in the Canadian League. Except for Jimmy Claxton, who passed for Native American briefly with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in 1916, Galloway is the last black signed for the minors until Jackie Robinson on October 23, 1945. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/03/19/thinking-robinson-part-2/
1900: The Cuban League becomes racially integrated with the addition of an all-black team, the San Francisco B.B.C., which won the pennant in its first season.
1901: Baltimore Orioles Manager John McGraw attempts to pass off second baseman Charlie Grant of the Columbia Giants as an Indian named Chief Tokohama, until Chicago White Sox President Charles Comiskey exposes the ruse. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2011/06/18/safe-at-home/
1905: William Clarence Matthews, formerly shortstop for Harvard, plays for Burlington in the independent Vermont League (a.k.a. Northern League). Facing considerable racist resistance, he leaves professional baseball, becomes a lawyer, and eventually serves as an Assistant Attorney General of the United States in the Coolidge Administration.
1907: Nine African American players join Cuban League teams, inaugurating a long tradition of Negro leaguers playing professionally in Latin America.
1908: Jack Johnson wins the world heavyweight boxing title. Also in this year, in the fall the Cincinnati Reds play a series of games against Cuban League teams in Havana, finishing 6-6-1, and also lost a game to the Brooklyn Royal Giants, a black U.S. team, 9 to 1. Over the next five years several major league teams, including the New York Giants, Philadelphia Athletics, and Detroit Tigers, would play exhibition series in Havana against teams that often featured black American players.
1909: Pete Hill and Bruce Petway are included in the Cabañas card set published in Cuba, becoming the first black U.S. baseball players depicted on baseball cards.
1910s: Many enduring all-black clubs—Cuban Giants, Lincoln Giants, All-Nations,, et al.—survive and even thrive in this period, but often they are at the tender mercies of white promoters and white ballpark owners. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2014/05/12/baseball-remembers-sol-white/
1911: An African American catcher named Bill Thompson plays for Bellows Falls, Vermont, in the independent Tri-State League, with no controversy. Two years later, the Bellows Falls club tries to sign the black pitcher Frank Wickware, but the opposing team refuses to take the field against him.
1914: In the Philippines, the All-Marines team left the professional Manila League and was replaced by a team from the 24th Infantry, one of the segregated “Buffalo Soldier” regiments. Besides the 24th, the league had two white teams (Manila and All-Army) and one of native Filipinos. Future hall of famer Oscar Charleston was the ace pitcher for the 24th, and Wilber Rogan was his catcher. Also in this year: White Kansas City promoter J.L. Wilkinson organizes the All-Nations team, which includes whites, blacks, Indians, Asians, and Latin Americans. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/03/17/black-ball-part-2/
1919: “Red Summer” race riots in Chicago, Washington, D.C.; Knoxville, Indianapolis, and Omaha.
1920: Rube Foster of the Chicago American Giants forms the Negro National League. It is at least the third and arguably the fourth attempt at an all-black league, but this one sticks, and three years later attracts a rival, the Eastern Colored League. Also in 1920, Tom Wilson founds the Negro Southern League, and Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall become the first two African-American players in what soon was known as the National Football League. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2014/11/15/baseballs-100-most-important-people-part-6/
1924: First Negro League World Series. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/02/18/the-worlds-colored-championship/. Also in this year: When Pedro Dibut takes the mound for the Cincinnati Reds on May 1, he becomes the first player to appear in both the organized Negro leagues and the white majors, having pitched for the Cuban Stars of the Negro National League in 1923. Two other players, Ramón “Mike” Herrera and Oscar Estrada, would make the same jump in the 1920s.
1925: A. Philip Randolph organizes and leads the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, first predominantly black labor union. Also in this year the Wichita Monrovians of the Colored Western League square off against an all-white Ku Klux Klan baseball club.
1926: Three white teams (Allentown, Camden, Chester) formed a new Interstate League with three teams from the Eastern Colored League (Harrisburg Giants, Bacharach Giants, and Hilldale). The league lasted only half a season. The Camden club included Tin Lai, a player of Chinese ancestry from Hawaii.
1928: On October 11, Homestead Grays slugger John Beckwith hit three home runs off of Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Rube Walberg. It was the first time an African-American player hit three homers in one game off an active major league pitcher. Two Hall of Famers also homered during the game: Jimmie Foxx and Martin Dihigo. The Grays beat the American League all-stars 12-10. The game was played in Butler, PA.
1933: Pittsburgh’s Gus Greenlee unifies the franchises owned by the numbers kings into a rejuvenated Negro National League. First East-West All-Star Game is played in Chicago, which becomes, for black baseball, a bigger draw and more important event than the annual World Series. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/03/17/black-ball-part-2/
1934-35: Dizzy Dean’s barnstorming team travels the nation accompanied by the “Satchel Paige All-Stars.” In one memorable 1934 game, called by baseball executive Bill Veeck, “the greatest pitching battle I have ever seen,” Paige bests Dean 1-0.
1935: The Berkeley (CA) International League of 1935, a semipro circuit, includes African American, Caucasians, Asians, and Hispanics.
1936: Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
1937: Joe Louis becomes heavyweight champion of the world in boxing, which had been America’s most integrated professional sport. Jackie Robinson, age 18, enrolls at Pasadena Junior College, where he is a star in every sport he turns his hand to. A second top-flight black circuit, the Negro American League, is formed in the Midwest and South.
For Jackie Robinson’s personal timeline, see also:
1939: Jackie Robinson transfers to UCLA, where he continues to excel. He is one of four black players on the football team, with Woody Strode, Kenny Washington, and Ray Bartlett.
1941: A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington Movement convinces President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802 in 1941, banning discrimination in the defense industries during World War II. Jackie Robinson leaves UCLA short of graduation, plays pro football in Hawaii.
1942: Nate Moreland and Jackie Robinson request a tryout at a White Sox training camp in Pasadena, California. Branch Rickey, longtime GM of the St. Louis Cardinals, joins the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson is drafted into the military. http://goo.gl/0VSyct
1943: At Owners’ Meetings, chaired by Judge Landis, Paul Robeson and other black dignitaries make pitch for integrating baseball. See: Joint Major League Minutes at:
1944: Jackie Robinson is court-martialed for insubordination but is acquitted. Receives honorable discharge, and writes to Kansas City Monarchs management to see about a job in baseball.
1945: People’s Voice sportswriter Joe Bostic appears at the Brooklyn Dodger training camp at Bear Mountain, New York, with two Negro League players, Terris McDuffie and Dave “Showboat” Thomas, and demands a tryout. In Boston, the Red Sox, under pressure from popular columnist Dave Egan and city councilman Isidore Muchnick, agree to audition Sam Jethroe, Marvin Williams, and Jackie Robinson. After no follow-up, Robinson plays for Monarchs and then in the fall joins Chet Brewer’s barnstorming Kansas City Royals, based in California. During this period, after years of wishing to act on his principles and his sense of obtaining a competitive edge, Rickey culminates his scouting efforts—and his Brooklyn Brown Dodgers subterfuge—by signing Jackie Robinson to a contract with the Montreal Royals, Brooklyn’s top affiliate. The date of the contract was signed in Montreal, where he would play in 1946, on October 23 but Rickey had first met with Robinson at the Dodger offices in Brooklyn (215 Montague Street) on August 28. He felt he had to act quickly at this time because the Ives-Quinn Act, outlawing racial discrimination in employment in New York State, had passed in the spring. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/06/27/215-montague-street/. Also in this year, Jesse Owens and Abe Saperstein, along with the High Marine Club of West Oakland, develop the concept for a West Coast Negro League. This is in direct conflict with the existing Pacific Coast League, which is headed up by Clarence Rowland.
1946: The West Coast Baseball Association presents a problem for the Pacific Coast League, making its push to become the third major league. PCL clubs refuse to rent fields on off days to the proposed Negro League. Also, Robinson goes to spring training at Daytona Beach as a Montreal Royal. April 18, Opening Day for the Royals at Jersey City; Robinson goes 4-for-5 with a three-run home run and two stolen bases. Montreal goes on to win the IL pennant and the Little World Series (against the American Association pennant winner). http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/04/15/jackie-robinsons-signing-the-real-story/
1947: April 15, Robinson makes his debut at Ebbets Field, playing first base. He would shift to second base in 1948. African-American pitcher Dan Bankhead will join the Dodgers later in 1947; Larry Doby breaks the color line with Cleveland in the American League, with the Cleveland Indians. Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe would arrive soon, and so would Monte Irvin, Minnie Minoso, and Satchel Paige. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/04/17/jackie-robinsons-signing-the-real-story-part-three/
1948: A. Philip Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters successfully pressure President Harry S. Truman to issue Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the armed services.
1949: Robinson wins NL MVP honors and plays in his second World Series in three years. In midsummer he is called to testify before House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), where he criticizes Paul Robeson, a step he later regrets. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/03/18/black-ball-part-3-2/
1950: The National Football League absorbs four clubs from the rival All-American Football Conference and thus “re-integrates” (blacks had played in the 1920s, and in the AAFC). The AAFC champion Cleveland Browns had featured black stars Bill Willis and Marion Motley. The National Basketball Association also integrates in this year, with three blacks: Earl Lloyd, Sweetwater Clifton, and Chuck Cooper. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2014/11/10/baseballs-100-most-important-people/
1952: Blacks begin to appear on minor league clubs in the Jim Crow South. The Dallas Eagles of the Texas League sign former Homestead Gray pitcher Dave Hoskins to become the “Jackie Robinson of the Texas League.” http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/03/20/black-ball-part-5/
1953: The Cotton States League barred brothers Jim and Leander Tugerson, under contract with the Hot Springs (AR) Bathers, from competing except where the home club permitted. The 19-year-old Henry Aaron, playing for Jacksonville, desegregates the South Atlantic League, which included clubs in Florida, Atlanta, and Georgia, while Bill White integrates the Carolina League. http://goo.gl/lurmmf
1954: Nat Peeples breaks the color line in the Southern Association, but faced with virulent opposition, lasts only two weeks. In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, Supreme Court overturns Plessy v. Ferguson and bans “separate but equal” public schools. Yet in big-league baseball the luxury Chase Hotel in St. Louis informed Jackie Robinson and other Dodger players that they could room there, but had to refrain from using the dining room or swimming pool or loitering in the lobby. http://goo.gl/lurmmf
1956: Jackie Robinson retires from baseball, not having landed the managing job he had desired. In this year Ozzie Virgil becomes the first player in MLB from the Dominican Republic; to date 617 more have followed. http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/01/25/pride-and-passion-baseball-in-the-dominican-republic/
1958: Willie O’Ree becomes first black player in National Hockey League.
1959: Boston Red Sox become last MLB club to integrate, via Elijah “Pumpsie” Green.
1961: The Pittsburgh Pirates place Gene Baker at the helm of their Batavia franchise, the first black to manage in the minor leagues.
1962: The Chicago Cubs name Buck O’Neil the first black coach in the major leagues. James Meredith, an African American, is barred from attending the University of Mississippi.
1963: Martin Luther King is arrested and jailed in Birmingham, Alabama for “parading without a permit.” President Kennedy sends Civil Rights Bill to Congress, where it languishes. He is assassinated November 22 of this year.
1964: Civil Rights Act passes: bans discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” in employment practices and public accommodations.
1965: Voting Rights Act passes.
1966: In his Hall of Fame induction speech, Ted Williams says: “The other day Willie Mays hit his 522nd home run. [Williams retired with 521.] He has gone past me, and he’s pushing, and I say to him, “Go get ‘em, Willie.” Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel. Not just to be as good as someone else, but to be beter. This is the nature of man and the name of the game. I hope that one day Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro players who are not here only because they weren’t given the chance.”
1972: Jackie Robinson dies, nine days after a brief address at the World Series in which he chided MLB for its continued discrimination in hiring practices. http://goo.gl/2Y6eZ1
1974: Henry Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s career record for home runs. http://goo.gl/vRk4H5
1975: Frank Robinson becomes MLB’s first black manager.
1981: An estimated 19 percent of the players in MLB are African-American. Most sources (there is some debate) claim this to be the high-water mark. Percentage of African Americans is now well below 10 percent, while Latino representation continues to rise.
1987: Commissioner Peter Ueberroth dedicates the season to the commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut.