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Alonford James Robinson

The third of eight children, Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, to Estella and Herbert Aaron. His first experience with professional baseball came in the Negro Leagues, as he moved up through the ranks with the Pritchett Athletics, the Mobile Black Bears, and the Indianapolis Clowns. In 1952, the Boston Braves of the newly integrated major leagues signed Aaron to play shortstop in their farm system. Moving from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Jacksonville, Florida, Aaron made it to the majors in 1954, playing for the Milwaukee Braves (now the Atlanta Braves).

Aaron is considered by some to be the best baseball player in history. Over his twenty-three-year major league career, Aaron compiled more batting records than any other player in baseball history. He holds the record for runs batted in (RBIs) with 2,297, and was a Gold Glove Winner in 1958, 1959 ...

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Larry R. Gerlach

baseball umpire, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Littleton Ashford, a truck driver, and Adele Bain. Ashford was two or three years old when his father abandoned the family, so he grew up under the strong influence of his mother, a secretary for the California Eagle, an African American newspaper published in Los Angeles. As a youth, Ashford exhibited the traits that marked him in adult life as a gregarious extrovert. At Jefferson High School he was a sprinter on the track team, a member of the scholastic honor society, and the first African American to serve as president of the student body and as editor of the school newspaper. He graduated from Los Angeles City College and attended Chapman College in nearby Orange from 1940 to 1941. From 1944 until 1947 he served in the U.S. Navy.

Ashford began his umpiring career ...

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Byron Motley

baseball player, was born in Greenville, North Carolina. As a teenager working in the tobacco fields he honed his skills as a pitcher. His first exposure to professional baseball came in 1936 when the manager of the visiting Wilson Stars from Wilson, North Carolina, spotted his burgeoning talent. After the team manager promised Barnhill's mother a dollar a day for her son's pitching duties, she consented to let her son join the team.

Barnhill barnstormed for two years with several independent teams. In 1938 he began his first of twelve Negro League seasons by joining the Jacksonville Red Caps. The following year, with the Ethiopian Clowns, Barnhill took part in the team's minstrel sideshows. Earning the nickname “Impo,” Barnhill cut up with his teammates in clown makeup and wild wigs while performing comic displays to delighted fans.

In the winter of 1940–1941 Barnhill pitched in the Puerto Rican ...

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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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Stephen Eschenbach

politician, journalist, and Negro League professional baseball pitcher, was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, one of four children. His father was a Baptist minister and his mother was a nurse. His mother wanted him to pursue medicine, but Brown was interested in sports and studying social problems. After preparing at Howard Academy in Washington, D.C., Brown went to Harvard.

Brown majored in economics but also played baseball, lettering as a left-handed pitcher. He worked his way through Harvard as a janitor and waiter. During summer breaks he was a Red Cap at Grand Central Station in New York, and also played in the Negro Leagues. In 1923 and 1924 he pitched for the New York Lincoln Giants Interestingly Harvard usually aggressive about enforcing early NCAA rules barring athletes from playing professional sports apparently did not punish Brown when he played in the professional ranks before returning to the Harvard baseball ...

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Donald Scott

educator, activist, and baseball pioneer, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to Sara Isabella Cain, a woman from a prosperous mixed-race family, and William T. Catto, a Presbyterian minister. When Catto was about five years old, his father relocated the family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after being “called” to the city by the Presbytery and after some time to the ministry of the First African Presbyterian Church, a historic black church formed by the Reverend John Gloucester, a former slave, in 1807.

As a youngster Catto attended a number of Philadelphia-area public schools, including the Vaux Primary School. By 1854, though, he was enrolled in the newly opened Institute for Colored Youth, the forerunner of historically black Cheyney University, just south of Philadelphia.

William Catto and other black ministers convinced the Quaker administration to focus on classical topics including Latin Greek and mathematics and not just ...

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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 ...

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Beatriz Rivera-Barnes

Major League Baseball player. Roberto Clemente Walker was born in Barrio San Anton in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the youngest of the seven children of Melchor Clemente and Luisa Walker. His father was a foreman on a sugarcane plantation, and his mother ran a grocery store for plantation workers. As an adolescent, Clemente excelled in sports such as track and field and played amateur baseball with the Juncos double-A club and with the Santurce Crabbers in what was known as the Puerto Rican Winter League. Because he was fast, had a great throwing arm, and was also a strong hitter, scouts from big league teams watched him play in high school.

When Clemente graduated in 1953 the scout Al Campanis signed him with the Brooklyn Dodgers with a $10 000 bonus The following season however the Dodgers assigned Clemente to play for their top affiliate in the minors ...

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Byron Motley

baseball player-manager, was born Lorenzo Davis. The only child of John, a coal miner, and Georgia, a housewife, Lorenzo earned the nickname “Piper” after his hometown of Piper, Alabama. Although he would never make it to the major leagues, which did not accept blacks until 1947, his is one of the premier names in the annals of Negro League baseball history.

Gifted scholastically, Davis often claimed that he should have been valedictorian at all-black Fairfield Industrial High School but that administrators passed him over in favor of a pregnant student. The truth of that claim is unknown, however. The coal miner turned athlete did, however, earn a partial basketball scholarship to Alabama State University in Montgomery. Forced to quit after a year for financial reasons, he found employment in the Birmingham steel mills. In 1938 he married Laura Perry and had a son, Lorenzo, Jr. the ...

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baseball player, was the oldest of five sons born to Elijah Green Sr., a public works employee, and Gladys Green, a welder. A talented but not particularly strong ballplayer, Green made history on 21 July 1959, when he became the first black player for the Boston Red Sox, integrating the final club in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Born in Boley Oklahoma Green moved with his family to Richmond California just outside of Oakland while very young When Green was a toddler his mother called him Pumpsie a nickname that would last for the rest of his life As the minor league baseball affiliate the Oakland Oaks enjoyed local popularity Green warmed to the sport at an early age He played middle infield at El Cerrito High School though he also started on the varsity basketball team and competed against the better known high school McClymonds whose ...

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Jerry Malloy

Negro League baseball player and manager, was born in Palatka, Florida. The names of his parents are not known. His father died when Lloyd was an infant, and he was raised by his grandmother after his mother remarried. A grade school dropout, he began his career on the sandlots of Jacksonville, Florida, at age nineteen.

Mild-mannered, clean-living, and genial, Lloyd had high cheekbones, a lantern jaw, and piercing eyes. Similarities in physique, temperament, style, and talent led to comparisons of Lloyd to white baseball's preeminent shortstop, and Lloyd was often called the “black Honus Wagner.” Connie Mack felt that the two were of equal caliber and Honus Wagner himself remarked After I saw him I felt honored that they should name such a great ballplayer after me Like Wagner Lloyd at five feet eleven inches and 180 pounds was a big man for a shortstop with long arms ...

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Todd M. Brenneman

athlete and attorney, was born in Selma, Alabama, to William Henry Matthews, a tailor, and Elizabeth Abigail Matthews. Little is known about his early childhood, but he attended Tuskegee Institute from 1893 to 1896 and came to the attention of Booker T. Washington, who arranged for him to attend Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts in 1896. At Andover Matthews excelled at football, baseball, and track as well as academics. He was also popular with his classmates who gave him a silver loving cup, a large cup that has multiple handles on it so it can be passed around to various people at a banquet, at graduation.

As successful as he was at Andover, Matthews truly came into his own as an athlete during his college career. Enrolling at Harvard in 1901 Matthews earned places on the varsity football and baseball teams in his freshman ...

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Wesley Borucki

baseball player, administrator, and owner. Born in Stockdale, Ohio, Rickey was the second son of Frank and Sallie Rickey. His Methodist upbringing on the family farm during the depression of the 1890s gave him uncompromising beliefs in social justice.

Rickey loved baseball from his youth, catching on a Lucasville, Ohio, recreational team. He became a star student and athlete at Ohio Wesleyan University. Rendered ineligible for intercollegiate competition because of semiprofessional play after his freshman year, he was regarded highly enough by Ohio Wesleyan's administration to be appointed head baseball coach. He stood firm when the University of Kentucky threatened to cancel a game if Rickey played his black first baseman Charles Thomas. Kentucky's coach backed down. Rickey defied a hotel that would have barred Thomas when Ohio Wesleyan visited Notre Dame.

In September 1904 the Cincinnati Reds acquired Rickey but the team soon ...

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Jules Tygiel

Born in Georgia and raised in Pasadena, California, Jackie Robinson attended the University of California at Los Angeles where he excelled as an All-American football player, and in basketball, broad jump, and baseball. Robinson later played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League.

In 1945, Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, selected Robinson to become the first African-American player in major league baseball since the 1890s. His promotion to the Dodgers in 1947 triggered opposition from other players. Nonetheless, he batted .297, won the Rookie-of-the-Year Award, and led the Dodgers to the pennant. Over the next decade, playing mostly second base, Robinson emerged as one of the most dominant players and foremost gate attractions in baseball history, winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949 compiling a 311 lifetime batting average and winning election to the Baseball Hall of Fame ...

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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 ...

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Paul A. Frisch

hotel waiter, baseball entrepreneur, and social activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the youngest of the three children of Sarah Thompson. His father's name and occupation are not recorded.

In 1871 Thompson began his career as a hotel waiter at the Ocean House in Cape May, New Jersey. The last decades of the nineteenth century were a time of increasing de facto and legal racial segregation. Most black nonagricultural workers were engaged in unskilled labor, as they were excluded from more highly paid skilled occupations. The occupation of hotel waiter held a high level of prestige in the black community because such employment was relatively clean, safe, and steady, but more intangibly, because it offered access to a privileged stratum of white society that on occasion presented further opportunities for advancement. By 1878 Thompson had been promoted to head waiter. In October 1884 Thompson joined the Hotel Brotherhood ...

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Christopher Devine

baseball player and activist, was born Welday Wilberforce Walker in Steubenville, Ohio. He was the fifth of six children born to Moses W. Walker, a physician and minister. He was reared, along with the rest of his siblings, by Caroline (O'Harra) Walker, but Weldy's death certificate lists his mother as Maria Simpson. This information was supplied to the coroner by Walker's nephew Thomas Gibson, who in the early 1920s claimed not to know Weldy's mother's identity. It is unclear whether the change in Gibson's information evidences newfound knowledge, a disclosed Walker family secret, or fiction. Walker's first name likely paid homage to the local pioneer Alexander Welday (although when and why Walker changed its spelling is unknown), and his middle name likely honored the English abolitionist William Wilberforce.

Steubenville where Walker would spend most of his life was a racially progressive town known for ...

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For nearly a century Washington, DC played an integral role in the proliferation of African American baseball teams, players, and leagues. Because of its proximity to a large black community, DC offered enormous potential. This diverse population fueled entrepreneurial efforts to establish league teams in the District. Though often plagued by financial woes, competition, and mismanagement, Washington entered teams in nearly every prominent eastern league, starting with the National Colored League in 1887, the Eastern Colored Association in 1923, the short lived East-West League in 1932, and the Negro National League in 1938.

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David A. Joens

, educator, athlete, and politician, was born in Alton, Illinois, the fourth of seven children raised by Jesse White, the owner of a janitorial service, and Julia Mae White, a-homemaker. In 1943 White's family moved to Chicago, where he attended Schiller Elementary School and Waller High School (later Lincoln Park Academy). A star athlete in high school, White earned all-city honors in both basketball and baseball. He attended Alabama State College (now Alabama State University) on a scholarship and earned all-conference honors in both sports. After graduating from Alabama State with a degree in Physical Education, White signed a contract to play baseball for the Chicago Cubs organization. Shortly after the contract was signed, the U.S. Army drafted him. White spent two years in-the army (1957–1959), serving as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division.

In 1959 he received an honorable discharge from the army ...