The Negro Leagues started in 1920, an astounding 101 years ago. From the league's formation through a monumental announcement in 2020, we look at ten things you never knew about Negro Leagues baseball.
1. The Negro National League was formed on February 13, 1920. Founded by Rube Foster, the league began with eight teams: the Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Cuban Stars, Dayton Marcos, Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis ABCs, and the St. Louis Giants.
2. The first game was contested on May 2, 1920, with the Indianapolis ABCs defeating the Chicago Giants 4-2 at Washington Park in Indianapolis.
3. While the game listed above, was the first game for the National League, but because of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, the National Guard still occupied the Giants ballpark. Because of that, Rube Foster was forced to cancel their season. Later that year, in March of 1920, the Negro Southern League joined the National Association of Colored Professional Base Ball Clubs.
4. In 1933, a second Negro National League was formed and a Negro American League started in 1937. In 1942, the teams resumed playing against one another and the first revived Negro World Series took place between the Kansas City Monarchs (NAL) who beat the Homestead Grays (NNL) 4-0. The Homestead Grays won three of their five Negro World Series appearances while Kansas City won two of their four.
5. Josh Gibson led the Negro Leagues with 384 home runs in his Negro Leagues career and is believed to have hit nearly 800 including league and independent baseball throughout his 17-year career. Gibson was a 12x All-Star and 2x Negro League World Series Champion.
6. Leroy "Satchel" Paige was not only one of the best pitchers and players in Negro League history, but he's also the oldest ever to play in a Major League Baseball game. He made his "rookie" debut at the age of 43, and played in his last game just days shy of his 60th birthday! Paige was also a part of history when he became the first African-American to pitch the American League as well as the World Series.
7. By the end of the 1940s, the Negro Leagues were starting to disband. In 1948, the Negro National League came to a close when the Grays decided to resume barnstorming, the Eagles moved to Houston, the NY Black Yankees folded, and the Grays decided to do the same after losing 30,000 while barnstorming. On the other side of the Negro Leagues, by 1951 the American League talent had dwindled to a minor league level. Their last game was played in 1958.
8. In 2010, the U.S. Postal Service created a pair of commemorative 44-cent postage stamps to honor the all-black professional baseball leagues including the Negro Leagues. The stamps were issued at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in conjunction with the museum's 20th anniversary. One of the two stamps depicts Rube Foster, who is credited with starting the league back in 1920.
"With the issuance of these stamps, the rich legacy of the Negro Leagues will travel far and wide, throughout this nation,” said Thurgood Marshall Jr., the Postal Service’s Board of Governors vice chairman at the time.
9. One hundred years after their inception, the Negro Leagues were officially recognized as a Major League by Major League Baseball in 2020. This was a deeply impactful moment for the 3,400 players in the league from 1920 to 1948.
“All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players, innovations, and triumphs against a backdrop of injustice, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement at the time. "We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as major leaguers within the official historical record.”
10. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, located in Kansas City, Missouri, is a place “where history touches home.” The 10,000 square foot museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its impact on the social advancement of America and has welcomed over two million visitors since opening its doors in 1997.
Dugout Mugs is proud to announce the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is our February Cheers To Charity recipient! The NLBM, based in Kansas City, Missouri, is a place “where history touches home.”