In collaboration with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, we’re saluting the pioneers of Negro Leagues Baseball. This collection is about breaking barriers, and highlighting some of the greatest athletes that ever played the game. The story begins under the cruelest circumstances but celebrates and shines light on those that persevered in order to play the game they loved — those that ushered the way toward equality in baseball.
Major League baseball was segregated for nearly 60 years under an unofficial agreement by owners to ban African Americans from playing in the majors. The 20’s finally saw the potential of Black ball players with the realization of Rube Foster’s Negro National League. It was the country’s first organized professional baseball league for Black players and Latino players alike. Teams played at such a high caliber, and folks were so eager to witness this new, exciting brand of baseball, that owners arranged traveling exhibitions against White major leaguers and ball clubs across the globe. It wasn’t long before names like, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell were being uttered in the same breath as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Still, the MLB remained segregated until April 10th, 1947, when Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers; effectively breaking the color barrier and paving the way for talented Black athletes across the country.
Soon after integration the Negro Leagues dissolved but many talented players would go on to have successful careers in the majors and many of them — i.e. Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Jackie Robinson — would become some of the most well known names in baseball.
Andrew "Rube" Foster was truly one of baseball's great pioneers and is known in the baseball community as the "father of black baseball." Not only was Foster one of the best pitchers and managers of the early twentieth century but he also was the architect of the Negro National League, the first long-lasting professional league for African-American ballplayers, which operated from 1920 to 1931. Rube was posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is the world's only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its impact on the social advancement of America. This privately funded, not-for-profit organization has been located in the 18th & Vine district of Kansas City, Missouri since 1990. The NLBM is where history touches home.