44¢ Play at the Plate
Negro Leagues Baseball
Issue Date: July 15, 2010
City: Kansas City, MO
Baseball was in its infancy when the rule known as the “Gentleman’s Agreement” banned black players from white leagues. From behind this color line a new American pastime was born – Negro Leagues Baseball.
The first Negro Leagues were formed in 1920, and fans were treated to a fast-paced game filled with action and flamboyance. Players like Satchel Paige electrified the crowds with their showmanship. A tall, lanky right-hander, Paige often told the outfielders to sit down while he struck out the next batter. And “Cool Papa” Bell would often try to steal two bases on one pitch.
Behind all the pageantry, life in Negro baseball was tough. When the team bus stopped at a restaurant, the players weren’t allowed in the dining room. And they often slept on the buses because white hotels wouldn’t rent them rooms. “We didn’t get a chance sometimes to take a bath for 3 or 4 days because they wouldn’t let us,” recalled Ted Radcliffe.
Integration came in 1947, which had mixed results. Black players had finally gained equality when they signed with Major League teams. But the Negro Leagues lost their best players, and attendance dropped. At the end of the 1961 season, the era of Negro Leagues Baseball was over.