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SABR special committee acknowledges 1949-50 Negro American League, independent Black baseball teams as major-league caliber

SABR logoJUNE 3, 2024 — Following up on the work of a task force that recommended the recognition of seven Negro Leagues as major leagues, SABR’s Special Negro Leagues and Teams Committee has determined that 43 independent Black baseball teams from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were also of major-league caliber.

In addition, the committee re-evaluated the final years of the Negro American League and concluded that their 1949 and 1950 seasons should be acknowledged as major leagues.

The committee, which included 39 leading scholars of Black baseball and the Negro Leagues, was co-chaired by award-winning authors James Brunson III and Todd Peterson, along with SABR Board President Mark Armour and historian Gary Gillette. The group convened three sub-committees to study pre-1920 teams and leagues, independent teams from 1920 to 1948, and the post-1948 Negro American League. Their full reports are available below.

“I’d like to thank all the committee members for their comprehensive study of these independent teams and leagues as they were the highest level of the game that most Black and international players could strive to reach during an era of racial segregation,” SABR CEO Scott Bush said. “Recognizing independent teams and the 1949 and 1950 seasons of the Negro American League as major helps us tell the full and accurate story of baseball’s history.”

The committee’s criteria in determining major recognition for independent teams was: a team of high quality; containing a large number of the best available baseball players; that competed against major Black and White teams; and often was a member of one or more of the seven previously recognized major Negro Leagues or an independent professional circuit. The 43 independent teams, covering 173 team-seasons from 1889 to 1936, include powerhouses such as the Kansas City Monarchs, Homestead Grays, and Pittsburgh Crawfords, along with the Page Fence Giants, Birmingham Black Barons, and Chicago American Giants.

The post-integration Negro American League was evaluated for organizational criteria such as player demographics, roster construction, record keeping, and franchise stability, as well as on-field statistics. While the 1949-1950 NAL had to withstand the increasing movement of their players into National Agreement leagues, these losses were not serious enough to represent a discontinuity in league function. Pioneering research and careful analysis of the evidence persuaded every member of the subcommittee there was a bright line to be drawn at the end of the Major Negro League era, but that line should be drawn after the 1950 NAL season—not after 1948.

“Despite economic factors beyond their control, and the crushing racism of the era, these Black teams played on,” Peterson said. “Every season, rosters were assembled, complicated schedules were adhered to, and statistics kept. Make no mistake about it—these clubs were big league in all but name.”

The full list of teams and organizations that were determined to be of major-league caliber are:


  • Algona Brownies (1903)
  • All Cubans (1905, 1911)
  • Atlantic City Bacharach Giants (1918-1919)
  • Brooklyn Royal Giants (1905-1914, 1916-1919)
  • Chicago American Giants (1911-1919)
  • Chicago Columbia Giants (1899-1902)
  • Chicago Giants (1910-1911, 1913)
  • Chicago Leland Giants (1905-1910)
  • Chicago Union Giants (1902-1906)
  • Chicago Unions (1897-1900)
  • Cuban Giants (1889, 1891, 1893-1894, 1907)
  • Cuban X-Giants (1897-1899, 1901-1906)
  • Cuban Stars East (1916-1919)
  • Cuban Stars of Havana (1906-1915)
  • Cuban Stars West (1916-1919)
  • Detroit Stars (1919)
  • French Lick Plutos (1913)
  • Hilldale Club (1918-1919)
  • Indianapolis ABCs (1914-1918)
  • Kansas City (KS) Giants (1909, 1911)
  • New York Gorhams (1891)
  • New York Lincoln Giants (1911-1919)
  • New York Lincoln Stars (1914-1916)
  • New York Quaker Giants (1906)
  • Oklahoma City Monarchs (1910)
  • Page Fence Giants (1897-1898)
  • Philadelphia Giants (1903-1911)
  • St. Louis Giants (1911-1912, 1915-1916)
  • St. Paul Gophers (1909)
  • Schenectady Mohawk Giants (1913)
  • Stars of Cuba (1910)
  • West Baden Sprudels (1910-1913)
  • York Monarchs (1890)


  • Atlantic City Bacharach Giants (1920-1921)
  • Baltimore Black Sox (1922, 1930-1931)
  • Birmingham Black Barons (1923)
  • Brooklyn Royal Giants (1920-1922)
  • Chicago American Giants (1936)
  • Cuban Stars East (1920-1922)
  • Hilldale Club (1920-1922, 1928, 1930-31)
  • Homestead Grays (1928, 1930-1931, 1934)
  • Kansas City Monarchs (1931-1936)
  • Memphis Red Sox (1923)
  • New York Bacharach Giants (1922)
  • New York Black Yankees (1932-1935)
  • New York Harlem Stars (1931)
  • New York Lincoln Giants (1920-1922, 1930)
  • Philadelphia Stars (1933)
  • Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932)


  • Negro American League (1949-1950)

SABR will continue to evaluate other teams and leagues from baseball’s segregated era in the future. Click on a link below to read each subcommittee’s full report:

(Visit to view the appendices and supporting documentation.)

SABR’s original Negro Leagues Task Force was formed in the fall of 2020 to make recommendations on which Black leagues from baseball’s segregated era should be recognized as major leagues, and to advise how SABR should change its internal workings to reflect this determination. The task force issued its recommendations on seven major Negro Leagues in February 2021.

The Special Leagues and Teams Committee was formed in August 2023. In addition to the four chairs, the distinguished group also included: Thomas Aiello, Rebecca T. Alpert, Gary Ashwill, Todd Bolton, Milbert Brown Jr., Adrian Burgos Jr., Alan Cohen, Robert Cottrell, Adam Darowski, Craig Davidson, Paul Debono, Phil S. Dixon, Gary Fink, Duke Goldman, Pete Gorton, Steven Greenes, Michael Haupert, Leslie Heaphy, Sherman Jenkins, Kevin Johnson, Tony Kissel, Ted Knorr, Philip Lee, Stephanie Liscio, Michael Lomax, Gary Mitchem, Rob Neyer, James Overmyer, Bill Plott, Jacob Pomrenke, Rich Puerzer, Donn Rogosin, Courtney Michelle Smith, Paul Spyhalski, and Shakeia Taylor.

SABR has also incorporated biographical data from the award-winning Seamheads Negro Leagues Database into the SABR BioProject and is in the process of revising the SABR Style Guide to explain how the terms “Major League” and “major league” should be used.

“Language evolves with those that use it, and we expect that to be true with this domain of baseball research,” Bush said. “We look forward to hearing from the baseball research community about the best language to incorporate.”

Originally published: June 3, 2024. Last Updated: June 3, 2024.