Monday, April 16, 2007

Geography of Negro League Baseball

Sunday is the sixtieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the modern color barrier in Baseball.

From the late 1800s to 1947 Blacks who wanted to play baseball were forced into the various leagues which became to be collectively known as the Negro Leagues. The culture of these teams was diverse. Some were simple business adventures that failed, some were exotic fan favorites like the Zulu Cannibal Giants, and others were powerhouses like Chicago American Giants.

At first the heart of Black baseball was in the Deep South. However, teams were spread out from Texas and Oklahoma to the Atlantic Coast. In North Dakota there were intermixed teams which played independently. Many ball clubs were independent and barn stormed across the country looking for teams to play and living day by day. Teams at this time were diverse, one was even managed by the House of David cult.

The 1920s marked a noticeable change in Black Baseball. The two major leagues were the Eastern Colored League and the first Negro National League. The Eastern Colored League was centered in the urban areas between Washington D.C. and Boston. The Negro National League's heart was between the Ohio River valley and the Great Lakes. Black Baseball left the rural South and went to the urban North. This mirrored the Black population's movement known as the Great Migration. Teams went from small, independent teams to teams that were owned by people who also controlled Major League Baseball teams.

Very few teams were west of the Mississippi River, most that were played in cities on the western bank of the river. One notable exception was the Kansas City Monarchs. The Monarchs were one of the most successful and longest running teams in the Negro Leagues. Robinson played for the Monarchs when he was recruited for the Dodgers.

In honor of Robinson and all the others who played Negro League Baseball here is Catholicgauze's map of Negro League Baseball teams. Anyone who has a Platial account may correct information or add teams to the map. It is not to be considered a finished project. The map can also be download for Google Earth.

1 comment:

modomains said...

You did a remarkable job creating the atlas. I put the link onto my blog at http://www.negro-baseball-league.com

thanks!