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Civil Rights and African American Baseball Players

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Published: Tue, 19 Dec 2017

How African Americans in Baseball Affected the Civil Rights Movement.

8th hour

Segregation was the main core of what prevented African Americans from pursuing their dreams of being baseball players, up until a few very recognizable players influenced others to step in and help win freedom for playing baseball. All American baseball teams were consisting of mainly whites but some teams allowed African Americans into their teams up until 1890 when the National Association of Baseball rejected blacks from playing. This caused an uproar in the black community and lead to the creations of all black teams that would travel and play other all black teams and sometimes an all white team, like in 1888 when the Cuban Giants defeated the all white New Yorks 4 games of of a five game series. After many years of overwhelming segregation in the south many blacks moved up into the North where they sought the opportunity of creating their own league. In 1920, Rube Foster the owner of the Chicago American Giants brought other midwest teams together and created the first all black league called the Negro Leagues.( Feature African-American Baseball.” PBS. PBS, 2003. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.)

The Negro Leagues had a very significant impact in the the entrance of blacks into the majors. After the first all black team was organized and the league was set up this opened up an opportunity for players to really show what they got. Before teams knew it they were winning championships. The first all African American league was starting to piece together. And with all this going on, one player had a goal set and that was to be the first black player in a white league. And that player is Jackie Robinson. In 1945 Jackie was the first black player to sign a formal contract with a white team. He took a big step into what led to the allowance of any black player to be in the majors. With the civil rights movement going on he endured hardships that no person could imagine, according to Duke Snider, “He (Jackie Robinson) knew that the future of blacks in baseball depended on it. The pressure was enormous, overwhelming, and unbearable at times. I don’t know how he held up. I know I never could have.” By the end of his rookie career as a Dodger he was named rookie of the year, and as time went on all of his success of breaking the color barrier and becoming the first African American to get into the majors and accomplish many records. Even though Jackie is not around to see how the hardships he faced have made life on people today more easy, he is still remembered as the player who paved a path for our nation. The impact of not only Robinson but also Doby and Campy gave inspiration to Martin Luther King Jr. About a week before King died he stated, “You’ll never know how easy you and Jackie and Doby and Campy made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field.” Baseball was integrated before the army, before schools, and before many other things. It all happened without Jackie but someone had to be the first to step up and take a chance, and that was just what he did. (Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.”)

A few years before World War II, Max Manning had been pitching for the Newark Eagles as a phenomenal side armer. He never thought there would be a chance for him to go and become a pitcher on a white team. His thoughts change for a while when he was approached by an unfamiliar face, the coach of the Detroit Tigers. They were offering a tryout spot for pitching, but that changed when the rest of the team found out he was black. His Negro leagues career was interrupted as he was called into service during World War II. He then returned to pitch the final Negro Leagues World series where his team won. With all this going on Max never gave up and never really cared about what people cared about his color, he only cared about playing ball. After his baseball life was over he went back to school and decided to become a sixth grade teacher up until his death in in June of 2003. “Feature African-American Baseball.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.)

Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, ball players in Oklahoma had been playing in sandlot leagues and excelling in the sport. Willie Wells played in the sandlot “blackball” leagues all the way through his teen years in highschool as a shortstop. When he finally came up to the Negro leagues he became the best shortstop in the league. In 1997 he joined the Baseball hall of Fame. Along with Willie there were many other black players that had showed they were worthy of being in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. In all there are about 18 players from the Negro Leagues in the Hall of Fame, and most had not been recognized till the 80s, all the way up to about 2002. The reason it took so long is because nobody really cared about blacks in baseball because they “never compared” to whites. After many years of segregation many white people started to gain respect for him, As Mickey Mantle said after one of the games

“BASEBALL, AFRICAN AMERICAN.” BASEBALL, AFRICAN AMERICAN. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2014 :

“After the game, Jackie Robinson came into our clubhouse and shook my hand. He said, ‘You’re a helluva ballplayer and you’ve got a great future.’ I thought that was a classy gesture, one I wasn’t then capable of making. I was a bad loser. What meant even more was what Jackie told the press, ‘ Mantle beat us. He was the difference between the two teams. They didn’t miss DiMaggio .’ I have to admit, I became a Jackie Robinson fan on the spot. And when I think of that world Series, his gesture is what comes to mind. Here was a player who had without doubt suffered more abuse and more taunts and more hatred than any player in the history of the game. And he had made a special effort to compliment

and encourage a young white kid from Oklahoma.”(“Jackie Robinson Quotes.” Jackie Robinson Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2014.)

As time progressed more and more people started to show respect for Jackie and others that helped integrate baseball and this gave a boost too other players, according to a statement by Hank Aaron

“In baseball, there is something electrifying about the big leagues. I had read so much about (Stan) Musial,(Ted) Williams and (Jackie) Robinson. I had put those guys on a pedestal. They were something special. I really thought they put their pants on different, rather than one leg at a time.”(“Hank Aaron Quotes.” Hank Aaron Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2014.)

Near the end of World War II the attendance at Negro leagues took a major decline as the best players were called up into interleague which is the step right below major. With that happening the Negro leagues took a dip and fell apart. This lead to integration of blacks into baseball. What caused this greater decline was the focus of the fans only on the major players like Robinson and Doby. To gain more support teams called female players to stand at the gates just to attract more fans but in the end the players just kept on going to white teams. (Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.)

When people think about integration of baseball, they think Jackie Robinson, but thats not all of it. It took a whole community, a whole league just to earn a chance on an all white team. This was a team effort, the biggest step in baseball history started with one big contract to Jackie and the rest took off. Baseball was never the same, and today it isnt a struggle. Without this happening, today baseball probably wouldn’t be what it is.


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