An Unwritten Rule

Major League Baseball wasn’t always segregated and it never officially barred African-Americans. The ban dates back to a resolution made by the National Association of Baseball Players in 1868. The group agreed that “any club including one or more colored players” would be denied membership.

But the National Association of Baseball Players was little more than a collective of amateur baseball club owners with no real governing power over baseball as the game professionalized. In fact, in 1871 the Association splintered into competing groups and the resulting bodies no longer honored agreements made by previous federations. African-Americans played in the Major Leagues in 1878 and between 1884 and 1887.

Still, racist thinking persisted and Major League club owners again came to what can only be described as a gentleman’s agreement banning African-American players from the Major League. While no documentation exists, no contracts were extended to African-American players between 1888 and 1945.

Even after Robinson’s signing, Baseball elites like Rogers Hornsby, argued against the integration of baseball, citing baseball’s close quartered lifestyle as a reason why African-Americans should not join major league baseball teams.

” Signing of Negro Players Won’t Work, Says Hornsby.” The Atlanta Constitution, Oct 25, 1945

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” Signing of Negro Players Won’t Work, Says Hornsby.” The Atlanta Constitution, Oct 25, 1945

This exclusion from white baseball did not, however, mean that African Americans were not playing organized baseball. The National Colored Baseball League formed in the 1880s as a minor league for African-American and Hispanic players. Other regional organizations operated under various titles until the 1920s, when a number of leagues coalesced to form the Negro National League and the Negro American League, a structure mirroring today’s Major League Baseball organization. These two Negro Leagues operated at a largely professional level from the 1920s until 1963.

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