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Caryn E. Neumann and Jill Dupont

[This entry includes two subentries, on the Negro Leagues and on integrated professional baseball.]

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Question: “Just tell me, why do you think there is still that much prejudice in baseball today?”

Answer: “No, I don't believe it's prejudice. I truly believe that they may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager.”

Guess the year those words were uttered. 1930?1950?1970?1987. The further irony is that the context was a late-night talk show commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson shattered the color barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB). On top of that, the interviewee was Al Campanis who at the time was vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers Campanis was interviewed because he had played and roomed with Robinson and on many occasions actually defended him against racial onslaughts Campanis was fired the next day The event was a stunning reminder of the perhaps more subtle ...

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James A. Riley

baseball player and manager, was born James Thomas Bell in Starkville, Mississippi, the son of Jonas Bell, a farmer whose father was an American Indian, and Mary Nichols. James had six siblings, two sisters and four brothers, and said that his mother taught him to be an honest, clean-living man who cared about other people.

He was reared in the Oktoc community near Starkville and began playing pickup games on the local sandlots while attending the local school through the eighth grade. There was neither a high school nor gainful employment in his hometown, so in 1920 Bell moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to live with his older brothers and attend high school, completing two years before ending his formal education. Soon after arriving in St. Louis, he met Clarabelle Thompson, and they were married in September 1920 The marriage lasted seventy years but was childless ...

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Rob Fink

Hall of Fame Negro League baseball player. The son of a farmer from Starkville, Mississippi, and the grandson of a Native American, James “Cool Papa” Bell was considered the fastest man ever to play baseball. The legends concerning his quickness prove almost Herculean in the retelling, with numerous accounts of Bell scoring in games from first base on bunts by his teammates. Bell also stole 175 bases over 200 games.

Bell began his baseball career in his hometown of Starkville, competing in local pick-up games with older youths and adults on the local sandlots. As Bell entered his teens, he found himself forced to move to Saint Louis to live with a brother because in 1920 Starkville possessed neither an African American high school nor any job opportunities for young black men.

In Saint Louis Bell attended high school for two years while working in a packing plant He also ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

baseball player, was born Louis Clark Brock in El Dorado, Arkansas, the son of a sharecropping family. When Lou was a child, his mother relocated to Collinston, Louisiana, where he grew up on a cotton plantation. A quiet and shy youth, Brock attended Union High School in Mer Rouge. Upon graduation he accepted an academic scholarship to Southern University in Baton Rouge. He chose to major in math for one simple reason: he had seen his family “duped” by plantation owners year in and year out, leaving the family deep in debt (Halberstam, 151). Despite hard work Brock lost his academic scholarship and turned to sports to stay in school, making the baseball team as a walk-on. He earned an athletic scholarship on the spot when he was given five practice swings in a batting session, three of which went for home runs.

Brock s career in baseball started slowly ...

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Robert M. O'Brien

baseball catcher who helped break baseball's color line. Campanella was also known for his courage and determination off the field as an automobile accident in 1958 left him a quadriplegic and permanently in a wheelchair.

Campanella was born and raised in Philadelphia. His father, John Campanella, was a first-generation American of Italian descent, and his mother Ida Mercer Campanella was African American. As a child he developed an interest in sports, with baseball becoming his first love. He took up the position of catcher as nobody else in the integrated neighborhood wanted to play baseball's most grinding position.

At the age of fifteen Campanella started playing Negro League ball for the Washington Elite Giants and he continued with the team when it moved to Baltimore the next season With his parents permission he quit school at age sixteen to pursue professional baseball He proved to be a workhorse often ...

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Rob Ruck

baseball player, was born Roberto Walker Clemente in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the son of Melchor Clemente, a sugar mill foreman, and Luisa Walker. Little is known of Roberto's early life. When he was fourteen, he played in exhibition games in Puerto Rico alongside Negro League and major league players. In 1952, during his first season with the Santurce Cangrejeros, Clemente impressed the Brooklyn Dodgers’ scout Al Campanis. On his high school graduation in 1954 he signed with the Dodgers for $10,000 and was sent to their highest-level farm team, the Montreal Royals.

The Dodgers took a risk by giving Clemente a year s seasoning at Montreal because of baseball s rules at the time which stated that players receiving bonuses above $4 000 had to be kept on a team s major league roster during their initial summers or else become eligible for selection by other teams ...

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Gerald Early

baseball player and artist, was born Curtis Charles Flood in Houston, Texas, the youngest of six children of Herman and Laura Flood. In 1940 the family moved to Oakland, California. Flood's older brother, Carl, who had trouble with the law from childhood, slipped into a life of crime. Flood, however, began playing midget-league baseball at the age of nine. George Powles coached the team and produced, besides Curt Flood, such players as Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Joe Morgan, and Jesse Gonder. The other factor that kept Flood out of trouble was encountering Jim Chambers who encouraged his interest and development as an artist at Herbert Hoover High School in Oakland Flood played baseball throughout his teenage years and became a promising athlete However he was small weighing barely one hundred forty pounds and standing only five feet seven inches tall as a senior in ...

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Christopher Devine

baseball player, was born Pack Robert Gibson in Omaha, Nebraska, the last of the eight children of Pack Gibson, a carpenter, and Victoria Gibson, later Victoria Borden, a laundry worker. Upon reaching adulthood, Gibson legally changed his name to Robert Gibson. Pack Gibson died of tuberculosis five months before Bob's birth, leaving fifteen-year-old Leroy (known as “Josh”) to run the family with his mother. The Gibsons lived in Omaha's North Side, where, surrounded almost exclusively by poor African Americans, Bob first recognized segregation.

Bob, who was born with severe asthma that would dissipate with age, had many health problems as a child, including rickets and a case of pneumonia that nearly killed him at age three. According to family lore, young Bob pulled through after Josh promised him a baseball glove if he survived. Josh taught his brother to play baseball and in 1947 after ...

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Bailey Thomas Player

baseball player, was born in Donora, Pennsylvania. His father, Joseph “Buddy” Griffey, was a decent athlete in his own time, playing third base on the Donora All-Star team and attending Kentucky on a football scholarship. Unfortunately, he was not as dedicated to being a father. He left Griffey and his mother when Griffey was two, and Griffey did not see him again until he was nine and then not again until he was seventeen.

Ken Griffey, a left-handed right-fielder, was drafted twenty-ninth by the Cincinnati Reds in 1969 at the age of nineteen. After spending almost five years in the Reds' minor league system honing his skills, Griffey made his big league debut in August 1973 The timing for Griffey s arrival could not have been better since the team he joined would later come to be known as The Big Red Machine and win two World ...

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Christopher Devine

baseball player, was born Reginald Martinez Jackson in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, the first of two children born to Martinez Clarence Jackson, a tailor. Reggie's mother, whose name is unknown, had four children from a previous marriage. Said Jackson, “I was a black kid with Spanish, Indian, and Irish blood who lived in a white, Jewish suburb of Philadelphia” (Jackson, 12).

When Jackson was six years old his parents divorced His mother moved to Maryland with three of his half siblings while an older half sister and a brother stayed with Martinez As a youngster Jackson idolized his disciplinarian father Martinez Jackson who played semipro baseball and barnstormed with the Negro League s Newark Eagles in the 1920s and 1930s taught his son to play baseball at the age of seven Jackson had his first encounter with racism when his youth baseball team traveled to Fort Lauderdale Florida As the ...

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James A. Riley

baseball player, manager, scout, and coach, was born William Julius Johnson in Snow Hill, Maryland, the son of William Henry Johnson, a seaman, boxing trainer, and athletic director, and Annie Lane. He was the youngest of three children, following his brother, Johnny, and his sister, Mary Emma. In 1905 or soon thereafter the Johnsons settled in Wilmington, Delaware, and William Henry secured a job as athletic director of the Negro Settlement House. He was skilled in the art of self-defense and taught the rudiments of boxing to both his youngest son and his daughter. Although Johnson hoped that his son would become a prizefighter, the youth preferred playing sandlot football and baseball.

Baseball became young Johnson s passion and he played games in his neighborhood and the surrounding area where his team would pass the hat and hope to get enough money to ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born Juan Antonio Marichal Sánchez in Laguna Verde, Dominican Republic, to Natividad (Sánchez) and Francisco Marichal. His father was a farmer who died when Juan Marichal was three. Marichal was raised by his mother on their large farm, and began playing baseball at six. Dropping out of high school after the eleventh grade, Marichal nominally drove a tractor for the United Fruit Company while pitching for its baseball team. After he dominated the Dominican Air Force team in a 2-1 game, the seventeen-year-old Marichal received a telegram the following day from the son of the dictator Rafael Trujillo requesting his enlistment in the nation s air force Much like his job in the fruit industry Marichal was with the organization for one reason to pitch In fourteen months Marichal never flew a plane but he did develop his pitching skills and attracted the attention ...

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Stanton W. Green

baseball player, was born Willie Howard Mays Jr. in Westfield, Alabama. His paternal grandfather, Walter Mays, and his father, William Howard Mays Sr., were semiprofessional baseball players, and his mother was a high school track star. After his parents divorced when he was three years old, Mays was raised by his father and two adopted sisters in Fairfield, Alabama.

Mays starred in football and basketball at Fairfield Industrial High School. As the school had no baseball team, Mays began playing semiprofessional baseball as a young teenager. By age fourteen he was playing right field with his father's semiprofessional steel mill team. In 1947 his father introduced him to Piper Davis the manager of the Birmingham Black Barons a professional baseball team in the Negro American League He got two hits in his first game for the Black Barons and was signed for $250 per month even ...

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Jacob Andrew Freedman

baseball player and television analyst, was born in Bonham, Texas, the oldest of the six children of Leonard Morgan and Ollie-Mae Cook. Bonham was a small town of 7,500 when Joe was born and, as in many rural towns with clearly demarcated racial residences, this community conspired to shield its children from the social and psychological scars of segregation. Rather than remembering Bonham's segregation and discrimination, Joe would later recall his close-knit extended family who lived in Bonham until 1948. During this time Joe received his first exposure to organized baseball as the bat boy for a semi-professional team that included his father and several uncles.

Facing economic hardship in Bonham the Morgan family including aunts and uncles moved to Oakland California There Joe s father and uncles found employment with the Pacific Tire and Rubber Company and just as in Bonham the family attended school church ...

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Steven J. Niven

country music singer, was born Charl Frank Pride to Mack Pride and Tessie B. Stewart sharecroppers in Sledge Mississippi a small community in the Mississippi Delta county of Quitman The fourth of eleven children Charl s name was mistakenly changed to Charley on his birth certificate and the name stuck His upbringing in Sledge was in many ways similar to that of his parents and to the vast majority of African Americans who had labored in the cotton growing Delta region since it had been cleared of its forests hanging vines and canebrakes and settled in the late nineteenth century Young Charley grew up in a three room tin and wood shotgun shack where the children slept four to a bed and picked cotton from an early age Charley admired and loved but as a child did not particularly like his father a deacon in the Baptist Church ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born and raised in the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of nine children of William Puckett, a department store and postal worker, and Catherine Puckett, a homemaker. Growing up in the crime-ridden Robert Taylor Homes projects, Puckett taught himself baseball fundamentals at an early age, throwing sock balls at a chalk strike zone on building walls. As a third baseman at Calumet High, he lifted weights to compensate for his diminutive (five-foot, eight-inch) stature.

After receiving little collegiate attention his senior year, Puckett worked on a Ford assembly line following graduation in 1979 at the age of 19 Noticed by a college coach at a free agent tryout Puckett was offered a scholarship to Bradley University Though small and round the atypical body for a centerfielder let alone leading base stealer the speedy Puckett moved to center field and led the ...

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Born in Cairo, Georgia, to sharecroppers Jerry and Mallie Robinson, Jack Roosevelt Robinson was raised in Pasadena, California, primarily by his mother, who worked as a domestic servant after moving the family from Georgia. Taught by his mother to confront racism by showing his talent, Robinson turned to athletics as a way to compete with the white children who would shout racist epithets at him and his siblings.

At Pasadena's John Muir High School, Robinson starred on several of the school's athletic teams. In 1938 he entered Pasadena Junior College, where he also excelled in sports. In 1940 Robinson transferred to the University of California Los Angeles UCLA where he was the first man in the school s history to earn varsity letters in four sports An All America running back in football he also competed in track and field breaking his older brother s national record ...

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Davison M. Douglas

baseball player, was born Jack Roosevelt Robinson in Cairo, Georgia, the son of Jerry Robinson, a farmworker and sharecropper, and Mallie McGriff, a domestic worker. Six months after Robinson's birth, his father deserted the family. Faced with severe financial difficulties, Robinson's mother moved her family to Pasadena, California, in pursuit of a better life. The Robinsons settled in a white Pasadena neighborhood—where they received a chilly reception—and Robinson's mother supported her family in modest fashion as a domestic worker.

Robinson demonstrated his athletic prowess from an early age. After graduating from high school in Pasadena in 1937 as one of the city's most celebrated athletes, he entered Pasadena Junior College. He established himself as an exceptional multi-sport athlete at Pasadena and won junior college All-American honors in football. By the time of his graduation from Pasadena in 1939 he was one of the most widely recruited ...

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Paul Finkelman

the first African American to play professional baseball in the modern major leagues. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946 and played that year for their top-rated farm team, the Montreal Royals, in the International League. On Opening Day in 1947, Robinson officially broke the color line in baseball as the starting first baseman for the Dodgers. Robinson would play for ten years, garnering numerous awards, starting with Rookie of the Year in 1947. In 1962, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. In 1997, on the fiftieth anniversary of his first game, Major League Baseball permanently retired his uniform number, 42. After leaving baseball, Robinson was active in business, politics, and civil rights.

Robinson was born near Cairo, Georgia. His father, Jerry Robinson a sharecropper left the family when Robinson was seven months old ...