Willie Jollie, television host, author, motivational speaker, singer and humanitarian honors the members of the famed Negro League.
THE NEGRO LEAGUE HISTORY
The Negro leagues were United States professional baseball leagues comprising teams predominantly made up of African Americans. The term may be used broadly to include professional black teams outside the leagues and it may be used narrowly for the seven relatively successful leagues beginning in 1920 that are sometimes termed “Negro Major Leagues.”
In 1885 the Cuban Giants formed the first black professional baseball team. The first league, the National Colored Base Ball League, failed in 1887 after only two weeks due to low attendance. TheNegro American League of 1951 is considered the last major league season and the last professional club, the Indianapolis Clowns, operated amusingly rather than competitively from the mid-1960s to 1980s.
Because blacks were not being accepted into the major and minor baseball leagues, they formed their own teams and had made professional teams by the 1880s. The first known baseball game between two named black teams was held on September 28, 1860, at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. The Weeksville of New Yorkbeat the Colored Union Club 11–0. In 1862, a newspaper reporter looking for a game between two white teams stumbled upon a game between black teams and covered it for his paper. At the time, baseball was commonly deemed recreation around which social gatherings were held.
Immediately after the end of the American Civil War in 1865 and during the Reconstruction period that followed, a black baseball scene formed in the East and Mid-Atlantic states. Comprising mainly ex-soldiers and promoted by some well-known black officers, teams such as the Jamaica Monitor Club, Albany Bachelors, Philadelphia Excelsiors and Chicago Uniques started playing each other and any other team that would play against them.
By the end of the 1860s, the black baseball mecca was Philadelphia, which had an African-American population of 22,000. Two former cricket players, James H. Francis and Francis Wood, formed the Pythian Base Ball Club. They played in Camden, New Jersey, at the landing of the Federal Street Ferry, because it was difficult to get permits for black baseball games in the city.Octavius Catto, the promoter of the Pythians, decided to apply for membership in the National Association of Base Ball Players, normally a matter of sending delegates to the annual convention; beyond that, a formality. At the end of the 1867 season “the National Association of Baseball Players voted to exclude any club with a black player.” In some ways Blackball thrived undersegregation, with the few black teams of the day playing not only each other but white teams as well. “Black teams earned the bulk of their income playing white independent ‘semipro’ clubs.”