Ashwill: A Negro League you’ve never heard of, the National Association of 1907-09

From SABR member Gary Ashwill at Agate Type on February 5, 2014:

The first “Negro league,” which I would define as a professional circuit explicitly dedicated to clubs staffed by black players, was the League of Colored Base Ball Clubs, or the National Colored League, of 1887. The NCL was as national in its range as the major leagues of the time, its six clubs including Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Lousville, and Baltimore. This proved to be way too ambitious, considering the limited resources available; the league collapsed within a couple of weeks, leaving players stranded in faraway cities.  It was fully twenty years before another “Negro league” would emerge, with a very different scope and somewhat reduced ambition: the National Association of Colored Base Ball Clubs of the United States and Cuba.  Virtually nothing has ever been written about this league, which seems to have lasted no fewer than three seasons, from 1907 to 1909.

Let me begin, though, the year before this Negro league got started, with a different league that was in important ways its predecessor.  In 1906 William Freihofer, who owned a chain of bakeries in the Philadelphia area as well as a white semi-pro club called the Philadelphia Professionals, organized the International League of Independent Professional Base Ball Clubs, which in its original form consisted of two black clubs, two Cuban clubs, and one white team.

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Originally published: February 5, 2014. Last Updated: February 5, 2014.