MLBPA: Barrier breakers: The 17 men who integrated Major League Baseball

From the MLB Players Association on February 21, 2017:

Not just every baseball fan but almost every American is familiar with the story of Jackie Robinson joining the Brooklyn Dodgers to break the so-called “color line” and integrate Major League Baseball in 1947, but the other 16 black players who became the first to join the rosters of the remaining pre-expansion clubs is a largely unsung group of pioneers. Most fans probably don’t know that the first black player in the American League followed Robinson by a mere three months.  


The “color line” in baseball didn’t exist before 1887 when owners joined in an unwritten rule, known as the “gentleman’s agreement,” to prohibit the signing of black players. While there were several (failed) attempts to sneak black players onto rosters by suggesting they were Native Americans, the prohibition against black players persisted until Rickey signed Robinson in 1945.

Happy Chandler, the Commissioner at the time, supported the signing, justifying it as the right thing to do considering blacks had fought side-by-side with white soldiers during World War II. Still, it would be another 12 years before each of the game’s 16 clubs had integrated.

THE 17

In order of their ascension to a Major League roster, the following were the first black players to be placed on the rosters of their respective clubs.  It would fall upon the shoulders of these men to integrate their own Clubhouses, and along the way dissolving the game’s racial divide, once and for all.

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Originally published: February 23, 2017. Last Updated: February 23, 2017.