Negro Leagues Baseball

What was Negro Leagues Baseball?

By the end of the American Civil War baseball had grown in popularity and was fast becoming the nation's favorite pastime. Teams were initially racially diverse. However, baseball was soon influenced by Jim Crow laws and segregation. The first all African American professional baseball team was the Cuban Giants, formed in 1885. Other teams quickly followed. These teams welcomed both African American and Latin American players who had been excluded from the white teams. Many of the teams traveled around the country to play local challengers. Known as barnstorming, these traveling games exposed communities around the country to the African American teams and their players. Through the urging of Chicago American Giants manager and former player Andrew “Rube” Foster, the first Negro League structure was developed among the Midwestern teams in 1920. In 1921, the National Association of Colored Professional Base Ball Clubs was formed. The number of Negro Leagues playing in the United States fluctuated, but there were at least seven that were considered significant. The Leagues organized their own championships and series for growing crowds of spectators, attracted to the faster, edgier style of play.

The End of the Negro Leagues

The year 1947 would prove significant to the fate of the Negro Leagues. On April 11th of that year, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League. Only a few months later, on July 5th, Paterson’s own Larry Doby became the first African American player in the American League. More African American players were drafted in the years to follow. With the integration of the Major League, the Negro Leagues started to lose momentum. Many of their star players transitioned and their audience also became more splintered. The 1951 Negro American Leagues season was the last major season for Negro Leagues Baseball. However, it would still take over a decade for many of the African American and Latin American players to be recognized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In December 2020, Major League Baseball officially recognized seven “Major Negro Leagues.” This recognition means that the statistics of approximately 3,400 Negro Leagues players will be included in the Major League’s annals.

The Negro Leagues at Hinchliffe

The first Negro League team to play in Hinchliffe Stadium was the New York Black Yankees. While traveling around the area in 1933, they stopped in Paterson to challenge the Gavin Pros, an all white team that called Hinchliffe home. The game was so well received that the New York Black Yankees were invited to use Hinchliffe Stadium as their home stadium while they played the Colored Championship of the Nation. Game five, the final in the series, was played at Hinchliffe Stadium and resulted in a win for the New York Black Yankees. The team would return to Hinchliffe the following season and call the stadium home through 1938.

The New York Cubans made Hinchliffe their home base in 1935 and 1936. The New York Cubans opened the 1935 Negro National League Series in Hinchliffe. The Mohawk Giants, Newark Eagles and local semi-professional team the Smart Sets all played in Hinchliffe during its Negro Leagues heyday.

Today, Hinchliffe Stadium is one of only five remaining Negro Leagues Stadiums in the nation. Our Stadium is the only one of those to be located within the boundaries of a National Park. Stakeholders in our community have worked tirelessly to protect and preserve Hinchliffe and its legacy.

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