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What was the "Negro League"? The forgotten league of baseball

The possibility that the members of the “Negro League” are part of the Baseball Hall of Fame in the United States invites us to review its history.

Negro League East All-Stars

It's official: for the first time ever, some Negro League players will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the United States. Photo: Wikimedia-Ernest C. Withers

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: ¿En que consistía la Negro League? La liga olvidada del béisbol

It's official: for the first time ever, some Negro League players will be part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the United States. More specifically, Buck O'Neil and Bud Fowler were chosen to be part of this enormous award, although there were 5 others who did not make the final shortlist.

In this case, "Minnie" Miñoso, Tony Oliva, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Buck O'Neil and Bud Fowler will appear on the new 2022 Hall of Fame team. This admission will be made official in Cooperstown on July 24, 2022, which represents an important milestone in the history of the sport.

All about the Negro League

The Negro League, also known as Black Leagues, was a baseball organization that was present in the United States between the end of the 19th century until the end of 1960. It emerged with the objective of integrating the different African-American players who were in the United States and they weren't part of the official league.

The origins of this competition begin in 1880, by then known as Colored Leagues. The idea was that teams with black players could face each other, since they did not have permits to play in official competitions.

What's more, not only could they not be in the Major Leagues, but they also couldn't be part of the Minor Leagues or affiliates. Therefore, this alternate league emerged, which had the Cuban Giants as a pioneering team, which was the first professional team that was composed entirely of African Americans.

Although this division already existed at that time, the official name of “Negro Leagues” was only implemented in 1920. From then on, the Negro Southern League was founded in Atlanta, with an opening match in the Negro National League, where the Indianapolis ABC's defeated the Chicago American Giants.

This competition was historically associated with the lower-middle classes, since most of the fans and even the players were employees of the popular districts. Therefore, the ties between fans and teams were strong, since they did so not only to encourage a particular team, but also to voice their complaints regarding racism.

From 1921 on, other teams from the Foster's National Association of Colored Professional Baseball Clubs began to join, which was another “parallel” competition to the Negro Leagues. However, all would end up being part of this division, since in 1924 the first Negro League World Series would take place.

The level of the Negro Leagues was really high, which explains that some professionals could be nominated for the Hall of Fame of this sport. However, the main problem was structural: there was not enough state support for this league, despite its high popularity among the African-American population.

Even this competition stood out from white in the fact that most of its athletes were older than 30 years. Therefore, they were not part of the “accepted” age to join the military services. Thus, in the midst of World War II, this competition maintained its full level, something that did not happen in the other divisions.

Well, on April 15, 1947, the event that would mark a before and after for this league occurred: the integration of a black player into the MLB. It was Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player to play in the Major Leagues, something he achieved with the Brooklyn Dodgers. That was the step that allowed the integration black athletes in these leagues. In 1958 the last game of this competition was played, which meant the end of discrimination against people because of their skin color.

Last year we had seen that, for the first time, this league was recognized as part of Major League Baseball, so the nomination of these players also recalls the importance of justice in society.