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Shortly before the Civil War a new pastime began to sweep the gentlemen’s clubs and social societies, one that would eventually evolve into the “national pastime”—baseball. The game quickly gained momentum throughout America, with amateur, leisure clubs springing up across the eastern portion of the country, followed by professionalized teams in the 1870s.

Almost from the beginning the nascent pastime caught fire within African American communities just as it did in white society. However, for most of baseball’s first century of existence, a largely informal but nevertheless real “color line” divided the players, owners, journalists, and fans with the same type of racial segregation that plagued almost every other aspect of American society.

But despite this discrimination the passion for and subsequent quality of baseball was just as vibrant in African American culture as it was elsewhere and Chicago developed into what was arguably the strongest and most vital locus ...