Black Americans were at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum
Throughout the later nineteenth century, Cap Anson continued to lead efforts to erect barriers to prevent black Americans fifa 15 coins from playing or- ganized baseball – efforts that mirrored the Jim Crow laws being adopted in parts of the United States. In the 1920s, Anson’s cause was picked up by baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Landis (a former judge) was hired by Major League baseball to lend a “clean image” to the sport after the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Ofﬁcially, Landis claimed that the leagues did not bar blacks from playing. Unofﬁcially, he did everything he could to maintain the barriers.
One story involving Leo “The Lip” Durocher should make the point. In 1942, Durocher told newspapers, “I’ll play the colored boys on my team if the big shots give the ok. Hell, I’ve seen a million good ones. Only a subterranean rule was keeping them out.” 3 Durocher was ushered into Landis’s ofﬁce and the next day Landis issued a statement saying that Durocher never made the remark and that there was no rule, “subter- ranean” or otherwise, excluding blacks. Given what we know about “The Lip’s” outspoken nature, this was probably Durocher’s way of compro- mising (you go ahead and withdraw my words) to make his point (the big shots do have a rule, don’t you see). Five years later Durocher would be managing the Brooklyn Dodgers and overseeing the integration of baseball.
Women were also excluded from playing baseball (and, for the most part, still are). After a few years of operation, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, dramatized in the ﬁlm, “A League of Their Own,” began to produce high-caliber women baseball players who were invited to try out for all-men professional teams. In 1948, when Minor League contracts were offered to Dorothy Kamenshek and Elenor Engle, baseball barred the signing of women to Major League contracts.
Excluded from the white leagues, black ballplayers began to form their own teams and leagues.5 Teams such as the Cuban X Giants, the Norfolk Red Stockings, and the Chicago Unions began barnstorming across the country playing an entertaining form of baseball. In 1920, Andrew Rube Foster – one of baseball’s great administrators – formed these teams into what became known as the Negro National League. One objective of this league was to develop a pool of talent for integrating the white leagues. In many cities, such as Pittsburgh and New York, the Negro League clubs began rivaling the white clubs for attendance and talent. Except, however, for a few interleague scrimmages, baseball remained segregated.
Black American exclusion from baseball in the ﬁrst half of the twen- tieth century mirrored the conditions of blacks in American society. Many communities erected laws to prevent blacks from voting. Black Americans were often terrorized by white violence in the form of lynch- ings and race riots. Many states required separate and unequal schools. Demagogues such as “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, Cole Blease, and Theodore Bilbo toured the nation and received thunderous applause for hatemon- gering speeches advocating lynching as a means to protect the virtue of white women, proclaiming the unﬁtness of “niggers” for American life, and seeking the deportation of black Americans to Africa. In a survey of white Americans in the 1940s, over 70 percent of whites believed black Americans were intellectually inferior, with heredity as the major cause of the supposed deﬁcit. Black Americans were at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. In 1930, 58.2 percent of black male employees were either servants or unskilled laborers versus 15 percent of whites. In the 1940 U.S. census, black Americans were three times as likely to be unemployed as were whites.
While many resignedly accepted or even applauded the status of black Americans in baseball (and in American society), a few were determined to change dramatically and forever baseball’s apartheid segregation pol- icy. Mr. Branch Rickey and Mr. Jack Robinson were two such reformers. In the 1940s, they would start on a course that would bring organized baseball’s ﬁrst afﬁrmative action effort.