Vasile: Black players in organized, pre-integration white baseball

From Joe Vasile at Beyond the Box Score on February 15, 2016:

The story is well-known. On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson made his major league debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking baseball’s color barrier and putting an end to a disgraceful period in the history of the national pastime. The dominant historical narrative holds Branch Rickey as a maverick willing to charge against the status quo and having a burning desire to end baseball’s color barrier. Robinson was his hand-picked player who then became the first man ever to step foot on a field with white professional baseball players. But this is a false narrative. Robinson and Rickey deserve recognition – that much is for sure – but there were black players in organized white baseball who came before Robinson, and there were attempts to integrate the modern game before Rickey’s.

The stories of the brave pioneers who came before Robinson and Rickey are virtually unknown outside the inner circles of baseball history, being recounted only in a piecemeal fashion. Maybe casual fans have heard of Moses Fleetwood Walker in passing or are aware of Bill Veeck’s attempt to buy the Philadelphia Phillies because they read Veeck as in Wreck. But the stories and the struggles of these early pioneers are important to remember in the historical context of pre-integration baseball history. What these men accomplished on and off the field and what they had to endure because of the overt racism of the era should not be lost to history.

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Originally published: February 15, 2016. Last Updated: February 15, 2016.