Negro League Baseball and Its Latin Connection

Negro League Baseball and Its Latin Connection

s the 2010 Major League Baseball season begins the declining number of African-Americans in professional baseball again becomes a topic for discussion. Basketball and football has become the sport of choice for many black athletes instead of the game many still consider the “National Pastime”. The topic got additional attention recently with the reported comments of Los Angeles Angel centerfielder Torii Hunter. Hunter, an African-American, in referring to Latin American players reportedly said, “People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they are African-American. They are not us. They are imposters.” Hunter later admitted using the word “imposter” was a wrong choice. He was only talking about cultural differences. But in spite of the “cultural differences” Hunter was so awkwardly trying 롤 대리 to describe, there has been a historical connection between African-American and Latin American baseball players; a common thread that is rooted in 20th Century professional baseball history. The connection between the two from the past that Hunter overlooked: Negro League Baseball.

This spring marks the 63rd anniversary of racial segregation ending in Major League Baseball. On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson dawned the field wearing a Brooklyn Dodger uniform to play first base against the Boston Braves at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. He crossed over the color line to become the first African-American to play Major League Baseball since before the turn of the century. It was an “invisible” color line because white club owners had denied there was a league policy prohibiting black players from entering the Major Leagues. However except for a few that played during the early formation of organized professional baseball in the 1880’s, no African-American had played in the Big Leagues before Robinson.

This “invisible” color line not only kept African-American players out, but also Latin American players. During this “whites only” Major League era, there were a few light-skinned Cubans that crossed the line. But they faced racial insults and discrimination. White players saw them as no different in terms of race than they saw black players. Out of response to the “invisible” color line, Negro League baseball was born and from its infancy Latin American players were a part of it.

In the early 1900’s, the Cuban Stars and Havana Stars frequently toured the eastern US during baseball season. Since there were dark skinned Cubans on both teams, most professional white teams would not play them. The Cuban teams played the majority of their games against the top African-American teams at that time (Philadelphia Giants, etc). The Cuban Stars in 1920 were one of the initial teams of the first major Negro baseball league formed, the Negro National League (NNL). The team operated out of Cincinnati and was the first Negro League team to use a Major League stadium, as it’s home field. The New York Cubans, owned by Cuban born Alex Pompez, were in the Negro National League for 12 years starting in the late 1930’s. Pompez stocked his teams with not only African-Americans and players from Cuba, but also players from other Latin American countries. His 1947 team won the Negro League World Series. In 2006, Pompez was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

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