Lucey: When hope didn’t spring eternal for black ballplayers in Florida

From SABR member Bill Lucey at The National Pastime Museum on March 2, 2015:

Spring training is traditionally an exciting time for Major League Baseball players. It’s a time for them to get back to doing what they do best: hitting, fielding, stretching muscles, getting reacquainted with old friends, meeting new teammates, and basking in the sun, when others back north are still fighting the last cold blast of the biting winter.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, when racial strife was bursting at the seams through much of the United States, spring training for black baseball players in the South was an especially miserable and degrading time.

By the middle of the 1950s, black players represented more than ten percent of Major League Baseball active rosters.

After the landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional, the legal challenges of segregation with other public facilities were successful, representing a major civil rights victory.

Jim Crow laws represented the racial caste system, which operated predominantly in the Southern and border states between 1877 and the mid-1960s, which mandated de jure segregation in all public facilities, including restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains, relegating African-Americans to second-class citizenship.

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Originally published: March 2, 2015. Last Updated: March 2, 2015.