February 13th – a day that is Spring Training Eve for the true believers in the Church of Baseball – is the anniversary of a significant moment in baseball history. A moment when Rube Foster first founded the Negro National League at Kansas City’s Paseo YMCA.
This new knowledge was imparted to me based on a tweet from Mr. Bob Kendrick. I feel as I should have recalled this fact from The Calculus of Color. And if you have not purchased this book, what are you doing with your life? Find it on Amazon.
GAME CHANGER: 2/13 marks the 98th Anniversary of Rube Foster establishing the Negro National League in KC’s Paseo YMCA! @Royals @41actionnews @kmbc @FSKansasCity @JPosnanski @MLB_PLAYERS @sportingnews @FOXSports @ESPNBaseball @KCMO @MayorSlyJames @JayHarrisESPN @mellinger RT
— negroleaguesmuseum (@nlbmprez) February 12, 2018
As I learned from McGregor’s book, the culture of the Negro leagues was a cut-throat wild west culture before Rube Foster taking the reigns. No agreements between the teams’ owners prevented this behavior. Further, though the games were popular – booking agents controlled the schedule and the gate revenue. Rube was not happy with this situation, and in 1920, he founded the Negro National League. Foster wrote extensively for the Chicago Defender, and fortunately, the Baseball Hall of Fame scanned his scrapbook.
Negro National League
Foster lead the Negro National League from 1920 until 1926. His view on baseball management and ownership are quintessential for anyone who has a passing interest in the subject. With the experience of being a well-traveled player, he transitioned to make profits with his Chicago American Giants. The struggles of the other racial baseball owners to turn profit inspired him to push for the foundation of the league.
The NNL lasted into the Depression, but the Depression finally won. The League would be reborn as the Negro American League in 1937, and would continue in full-time operation until after Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the National and American Leagues in 1947. Within two years, the major Negro Leagues had dropped to minor league status – and folded by 1958. The Indianapolis Clowns continued to perform like the Harlem Globetrotters of basketball well into the 1980s, but it was more performance than baseball.
It is unfortunate that the memory of the Negro National League is not celebrated as it should be. However, I will be taking a moment to doff my cap in memory of this league that helped paved the way for the institution of modern baseball as we know it today.
If you find yourself in the Kansas City, Missouri area, check out the Negro League Baseball Museum, on the corner of 18th and Vine. Foster is also on my list to find an autograph of. Any leads to a relatively inexpensive one would be welcome.
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