Discover Greatness: Part 5

Post-1946: The Color Barrier Falls

1947 — Jackie Robinson makes his Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in April. Larry Doby joins Cleveland Indians in July as the first African American in American League.

1948 — Negro National League disbands after nearly all teams in league report financial losses. Satchel Paige leaves Negro Leagues for the Majors.

1954 — Supreme Court renders decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Court states that separate public facilities established under “separate but equal” doctrine are no longer legal.

1959 — Integration of Major League baseball is complete when Elijah “Pumpsie” Green joins Boston Red Sox, the last team to sign a Black player.

1960 — Negro American League disbands at the end of the season, with only four teams left for barnstorming duty.

Jackie Robinson

John Roosevelt Robinson was called “the Jim Thorpe of his race” for his multi-sport skills. He was a four-letter man in football, track, basketball and baseball at UCLA. Robinson was named National League Rookie of the Year in 1947 and Most Valuable Player in 1949. A former K.C. Monarch, Robinson led the National League in batting in 1949 and appeared in All-Star games from 1949 through 1954.

Kansas City Monarchs, 1945

The Monarchs were managed by former standout catcher Frank Duncan (BR,1L). This team highlighted a football player from UCLA named Jackie Robinson. It was shortstop Robinson’s only year in the Negro Leagues. Also shown is infielder Jesse Williams (TR,1L), Jackie’s mentor. Other top players were Jim “Lefty” LaMarque (TR, 4L), Hilton Smith (TR, 2R) and Sammie Haynes (BR, 1R).

Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, on Jackie Robinson’s athletic talent

Jackie Robinson

It was this 28-year-old rookie Jackie Robinson who broke the long established but unwritten law that had excluded Black players from the Major Leagues, when he signed a Brooklyn Dodgers contract with owner Branch Rickey. The so-called “Gentlemen’s Agreement” would never be enforced again.

Dr. Lawrence Hogan, Emeritus Professor of History at Union County College, on Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson

Life Magazine, 1950

Jackie Robinson’s appearance on the cover of Life magazine was a novelty for a Black athlete at the time. After winning the Most Valuable Player award in 1949, Robinson became an instant celebrity, appearing on many magazine covers, in household ads, on television shows and as a frequent guest on radio talk shows.

Larry Doby

Doby holds the distinction of being the first Black player to join the American League. A former second baseman for the Newark Eagles, he carried the Cleveland Indians to a World Series championship in 1948 and he played in every All-Star game from 1949 through 1954. In 1978, he was named manager of the Chicago White Sox.

Roy Campanella

As a 15-year-old kid, Roy Campanella began his career with the Baltimore Elite Giants. Learning the tools of the catching trade from Biz Mackey, he earned All-Star duty in 1941, 1944 and 1945. Later, “Campy” joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948 and proceeded to win MVP honors in 1951, 1953 and 1955. He was named to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

The Birmingham Black Barons, 1948

In 1948, a rookie from Alabama named Willie Mays joined the Negro American League Champion Birmingham Black Barons. They lost the World Series to the Homestead Grays in five games. After three years under the tutelage of manager Piper Davis, the “Say Hey Kid” developed into the Major Leagues’ most exciting player.

Bob Kendrick on Willie Mays and the Black Barons

Booker T. McDaniel

McDaniel was known as “Cannonball” for his explosive pitching style with the K.C. Monarchs. In 1949, 38-year-old “Big Mac” became the first African American to sign with the Chicago Cubs Minor League team Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. He had a streak of five victories before losing his first game.

Buck O’Neil With Bob Gibson

Nineteen-year-old Bob Gibson (left) and Monarchs’ manager Buck O’Neil met for possible contract talks. Young Gibson never played for the Monarchs, but he went on to the Majors, winning the league’s Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards in 1968. Gibson was named to eight All-Star squads as a St. Louis Cardinal.

Willie Randolph, former NY Yankee Great, on Buck O’Neil

Monte Irvin

Irvin was one of the premier hitters in the Negro Leagues. As a member of the Newark Eagles, he led the offensive assault against the K.C. Monarchs to capture the World Series crown. An East-West All-Star four times, he joined the New York Giants in 1948. Irvin was the bustling force behind the Giants’ drive to pennants in 1951 and 1954.

Lawrence Hogan on Monte Irvin

Larry Doby, 1947

Newark Eagles
Cleveland Indians

Roy Campanella, 1948

Baltimore Elite Giants
Brooklyn Dodgers

Don Newcombe, 1950

Newark Eagles
Brooklyn Dodgers

Lawrence Hogan on Don Newcombe

Henry Aaron, 1951

Indianapolis Clowns
Milwaukee Braves

Willie Mays, 1951

Birmingham Black Barons
New York Giants

Joe Black, 1952

Baltimore Elite Giants
Brooklyn Dodgers

Ernie Banks, 1953

Kansas City Monarchs
Chicago Cubs

Elston Howard, 1955

Kansas City Monarchs
New York Yankees

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