Baseball was one of the first institutions in the American history to be desegregated. Shortly after the end of the civil war, there was the first public baseball game held between all-blacks teams. Philadelphia Excelsiors and Brooklyn Uniques played. Twenty years later, there were over 200 black teams in the US that had been formed. Then, the Blacks were able to play in teams that were traditionally known to belong to Whites, and this was practical in North and Midwest where they were known to be more tolerant of diversity in race.
The issue had earlier in 1890 been worsened when National Association of Base Ball players rejected the black players. According to Fort and Joel (36), the agreement to bar the Blacks from participating in the baseball teams for the following fifty years was popularly referred to as “Gentlemens agreement” as they believed that by excluding the Backs, no injury would be witnessed in Baseball. The breaking of the color barrier in baseball was a big challenge and entailed many unsuccessful attempts.
However, regions like the South, Midwest and North had black teams playing and they could travel the country to play other Black teams and in some cases, they could challenge the all-white teams to exhibition games. For instance, in 1888, the Cuban Giants defeated New York’s (All-white team) in four games out of five (Laliberte 330-339). Together in 1920, there was creation of the first black league popularly known as the Negro National League. More leagues sprout that resulted in great entertainment for the communities that were engaged (Rogosin 4).
It brought economic success as the years progressed by breaking the economic barriers as black hotels and restaurants emerged in areas where the leagues took place. Jackie Robinson signing by manager Branch Rickey as the first black player for the Brooklyn Dodgers marked the beginning of the end of the Negro Leagues with the black baseball fans being forced to follow their players in the main leagues. The Negro Leagues ended by 1960 (Lumpkin 2).
Signing of Robinson by Brooklyn’s top Minor League team, Montreal Royals in 1945 ended the six decades of segregation in baseball. The black reporters further laid emphasis on the story while discussing its historical and social context. Mostly, the target audience of the black journalists was non-Americans. They touched on how white American remained unaware of the severity and the extent of which racism and prejudice caused rot in the country’s social fabric pinpointing the barriers that required to be broken (Ferrucci et al. 09-312).
According to Garratt (42-44), before Jackie Robinson was integrated into the Major-League Baseball (MLB) in 1947, only 55 players of Spanish-speaking American origin played in the league. The segregation was not tough for Latin American teams when compared to African-American teams (Negro League Teams). However, after the first black pioneers infiltrated the segregation to play in MLB, the influx of foreign-born players, particularly the Latinos increased.
Therefore, Jackie Robinson’s integration is regarded as the culmination of efforts by different Blacks in the Negro League teams such as John Gibson, Rube Foster and Satchel Paige as well as other black Latinos such as Martin Dihigo, Alejandro Pompez, Jose Mendez, etc. (Cooper, Gawrysiak and Hawkins 198-200). After Jackie Robinson was integrated into Major League Baseball, the media played a significant role in breaking other barriers for African Americans. Notably, black sportswriters were more active in covering the issues surrounding integration of baseball than the white sportswriters.
Therefore, the black journalists had a great responsibility in the racial unit after the Second World War as it covered the assault on professional baseball’s color line. The black sportswriters were fundamental in spreading the integration issue into the mainstream society as they campaigned for increased inclusion in their columns and attracted attention from white sportswriters who were sympathetic regarding the social exclusion (Anzia and Berry 478-482). The Robinson story news coverage was greatly enhanced by the black press and it marked a transition to equality in the baseball field.
In addition, the civil rights took the issue and the sportswriters used the success of the blacks in baseball to push for integration in all parts of the society. The stories were reported with emotion and emphasis was laid on its historical importance. The story was cast in terms of freedom; an important moment in a long struggle. However, it is imperative to note that the white mainstream press viewed these moves as publicity stunts but chose to remain silent since they were unsure of the likely public responses (Hill 174-176).
The Robinson story went beyond the baseball issues and touched on racial issues that had been previously neglected by the mainstream media and the society at large (Wiggins 182). However, in the white mainstream press reported less regarding the integration or ignored the issue completely. The argument they put forward in support of intentional ignorance of reporting the integration issue was that raising race issues would end to no good. They remained insensitive to racial stereotyping and some displayed lack of awareness to the larger issue of racism in the US.
Therefore, Baseball had a tremendous influence on the integration of the society since it broke the long withstanding color barrier that lead to non-violent movements that fought for equality offering new life possibilities for the blacks and revolutionized America. As Robinson made his impact in the MLB, he received a lot of hatred. Branch Ricky, his employer and the owner of the team he debuted in MLB, ensured that Robinson did not fight back the hatred he received from the white community (Stride, Thomas and Smith 2164-2172).
Rickey supported the blacks because he feared no one and had no votes to lose by supporting his new team member. According to Lester (2), Ricky believed that a man’s race, color and region could not be used to define the ability of an individual. He pointed out that the American community was interested in the game and not the pigmentation of Robinson. The nonviolent movements ushered activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. who stood out and spoke on behalf of the blacks. This led to Civil rights and Black Power’ movements that ensured that blacks were not discriminated against in all aspects of the society.
In the beginning, Mangan and Ritchie (4-5) point out that even after earning money in baseball, the black players had challenges in buying homes in cities of interest. Labor disputes also lead to blacks having increased salaries as the black race continually demanded freedom, justice and equality. As pointed out earlier, black journalists played a significant role in increasing the coverage of the story. In fact, the first of many prolific acts fighting for racial equality started the year Robinson broke into the league.
The stories that surrounded the black players helped the society of then to clarify that there was no definite possibility for separate but equal segregation had to prevail. It is imperative to note that Robinson’s case was not a special signifying discrimination; discrimination existed even before him. The blacks had been silent all through about their lowly status. Therefore, the issue of secretion in baseball acted as a breakthrough in breaking the status quo in racial discrimination against the blacks.
Robinson provided an avenue that signified a new era in which individuals were idolized for their abilities to play and not on racial grounds (Stride, Thomas and Smith 2176-2183). The teammates who played with Robinson in Brooklyn Dodgers were made to understand that he was an equal teammate. The children started seeing black faces in baseball and they became fans of these players based on the ability of the individual player. The blacks took advantage of the newly established opportunity. One opportunity that was notable was the desegregation of the military.
Truman’s Executive order 9981 marks a breakthrough as it abolished all forms of racial discrimination that gave many African American’s opportunities to apply to many job opportunities. The careers necessitated valuable education that many of the blacks endeavored to achieve. For instance, Ralph J. Bunche can be noted as one of the outcomes of the increased opportunities for blacks after the breakthrough via the baseball segregation advocacy. Ralph became the first Black person to win a noble peace price in the year 1950. Other such as Gwendolyn Brooks went ahead to win the Pulitzer Price in Poetry.
Marian Anderson also went ahead to be part of the Metropolitan Opera as the first ever black woman. This is line with one argument by Mangan and Ritchie (5) pointing that once a barrier is broken in one field, it directly affects other fields and makes the breaking of other barriers easier. The breaking of other barriers was facilitated by other factors such as politics that started to experience the impact after the breakthrough in baseball. The first female senator of black origin was witnessed via Cora Brown. Politics became the order through which the injustices were solved.
In 1960, this saw the first black man vying for the presidency when Reverend Clennon ran for president via the independent Afro-American party. Other black individuals such as Clifton DeBerry ran for the president and in 1970 ended up becoming the governor of New York. Also, in Major League Baseball, Robinson himself will remain a political factor even after his retirement as he will remain the point of reference (Robinson and Costas 17-39). Gould IV (2) noted that black entrepreneurs increased in number after Robinson’s debut.
Gould IV attributed the increase in entertainment joints to increased popularity of pop culture that had remained controversial before Robinson’s debut. Pop songs from artists such as Sam Cooke, Etta James, Chuck Berry, etc. became Billboard top hits. This paved the way for the modern music in which blacks have equal participation. The Negro players also brought changes to the baseball. They brought speed, fielding, power and overwhelming pitching that marked the new baseball league (Surdam, Brown and Gabriel 315-318). Previously, baseball was all about hitting the ball and running for daylight.
The Negro League contributed to the home run ball and a player like Willie Mays hit over 500 home runs in his career. Other such as Hank Aaron are regarded as the all-time home run king with a record of over 700 home runs. Such styles of play would never have happened if the black players had not been involved in the Major League Baseball (Ventresca 56-76). Therefore, the period after Robinson i. e. 1950s marked a new beginning in which changes that gave blacks more opportunities started to become visible. These changes revolve around politics, education, music and entertainment.
Integration became part of the American society. Although currently there are low numbers of blacks playing baseball when compared to the whites, racism cannot be counted as a fueling factor, but other factors affecting the black people might be the reason. However, one issue remains clear; breaking of color barriers by blacks in baseball as commenced by Jackie Robinson led to breaking of barriers that kept the blacks away from other professions. Blacks in baseball acted as a catalyst to the revolution in America and brought together the black and white citizens in the American society.