Negro Baseball League pitched players into the major leagues

On a dusty mid-summer’s day back in 1947, Jackie Robinson buttoned-up his No. 42 Brooklyn Dodger’s jersey, laced up his cleats and stepped onto Ebbets Field.

History was made that day when Robinson became the first African American baseball player to take the field as a major leaguer.

But Robinson wasn’t the first black man to play ball in an organized baseball league. No, Negro Baseball League players had taken the field, hit the home runs and turned the double plays for already nearly 30 years by the time Robinson stepped on to Ebbets Field.

In fact, major league scouts recruited Robinson from the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs.

The Negro Baseball League was established in the 1920s, giving talented and energetic African American ball players a chance to be part of America’s favorite pastime. And they enjoyed the competitive camaraderie until the league folded in 1960. By that time, Major League Baseball had opened its doors to African American players, no longer rejecting the talents and energies of those athletes.

“These guys set the table for us,” Ken Griffey Jr., now-retired African American all star centerfielder, said in a Negro Baseball League documentary written by Byron Motley.

Motley, Negro Baseball League historian and the son of the only living Negro League umpire, stepped up to the plate at Anoka-Ramsey Community College Feb. 22, delivering an impassioned pitch about the Negro League. See more in Sue Austreng’s ABC Newspapers exclusive.

PHOTO: Wearing a vintage Kansas City Monarch’s jersey, Byron Motley, filmmaker, lecturer, author and son of the only living Negro Baseball League umpire, stepped up to the plate at Anoka-Ramsey Community College Feb. 22, delivering an impassioned pitch about the Negro Leagues. (Photo by Sue Austreng, ABC Newspapers)

 

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