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Negro Leagues History

African-Americans began to play baseball in the late 1800s on military teams, college teams, and company teams. They eventually found their way to professional teams with white players. Moses Fleetwood Walker and Bud Fowler were among the first to participate. However, racism and “Jim Crow” laws would force them from these teams by 1900. Thus, black players formed their own units, “barnstorming” around the country to play anyone who would challenge them.

In 1920, an organized league structure was formed under the guidance of Andrew “Rube” Foster—a former player, manager, and owner for the Chicago American Giants. In a meeting held at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City, Mo., Foster and a few other Midwestern team owners joined to form the Negro National League. Soon, rival leagues formed in Eastern and Southern states, bringing the thrills and innovative play of black baseball to major urban centers and rural country sides in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. The Leagues maintained a high level of professional skill and became centerpieces for economic development in many black communities.

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Photo Library Display Courtesy of Dr. Kelly Jackson

Stop by the library to view baseball cards, photos, postcards, statistics and more from players and teams of Negro League Baseball.


Known as the Black Lou Gerhig, Buck spent eighteen years in professional baseball. In 1933, Buck signed with the Baltimore stars. Under the direction of the great Ben Taylor, Buck hones his skills as a first baseman. The following season Buck joined the Homestead Grays, where he spent the next seventeen years as their first baseman. During that time, he helped lead the Grays to nine pennants, appeared in twelve East-West all-star games and compiled a .341 lifetime batting average in the Negro National League. In 1972, Buck was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


One of the greatest third baseman to ever play the game, Ray broke in with the Detroit Stars in 1933. Known as Hooks because of his bowed legs, he had a strong bat, hitting a career .335 in the Negro Leagues. In 1938 with the Newark Eagles, Ray hit a league leading .417. In search of a bigger payday, Dandridge spent most of the 1940s in Mexico compiling a .343 average. In 1949 at the age of thirty-five, Ray was signed by the New York Giants organization. He was assigned to their triple-A affiliate in Miineapolis and in his first year won the league MVP award. In 1987, Ray was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.