Negro Baseball Leagues Essay, Research Paper
After the Civil War, even though slavery had been outlawed, there was still a great
amount of tension between blacks and whites. The southern whites were bitter toward the
loss of their slaves, and although the north fought for the slaves freedom, they did not
want them to have equal priveledges. As a result of this, segregation was born.
Segregation is the seperation of two different groups, in this case, black and white people.
Blacks and whites were separated in many ways such as having different bathrooms and
drinking fountains and even schools and churches.
Baseball is usually referred to as the national pastime . The word nation is
defined as a people, usually inhabitants of a specific territory, who share common customs.
One would assume that this means everyone was included, but in reality, they were not.
When the Major Leagues formed, all of the players were white, European
descendants. The National Association of Baseball Players would not allow any teams,
which consisted of one or more Negro players, to join.
All of these newly freed former slaves wanted to play baseball, but were prevented
from doing so, against white teams. So they played each other. Commonly referred as
blackball , it was played as an attraction at county fairs and carnivals. Teams eventually
would travel to other cities to play other black teams. Blackball quickly found its way
across the country, in both major cities and rural farmlands.
With the growing popularity of Blackball across the country, leagues were formed
by entrepreneurs. The leagues usually included teams in a surrounding region, because is
was too costly to travel across the country.
The team in Philadelphia was called the Hilldale Field Club, or the Hilldales. The
Hilldales was a popular amateur team that began in 1910 (Clark & Lester 28). In 1911, Ed
Bolden took over the team. He was a clerk in the Philadelphia Post Office. The Hilldales
played in Darby, Delaware County (Clark & Lester 29). Bolden advertised games in the
Philadelphia Tribune, which was a black newspaper. The advertisements brought crowds
of up to 3000 people to the games (Ribowsky History 94).
In 1914, Bolden was able to schedule three games with the Philadelphia Athletics.
This was a major hurdle that his team overcame, because it shows that they at least were
recognized as a team by the Athletics, Philadelphia s professional team (Ribowsky
Bolden did not want to stop there. He wanted people not only to respect his team,
but to also prove that blacks are not different than whites, in baseball, and as a people.
Bolden fined any of his players who fought on the field, and prohibited them from having
anything at all to do with alcohol (Ribowsky History 95).
In 1917, The Hilldales turned pro, and all of the big eastern teams came to Darby
to play them. Also, many white major league teams came to play the Hilldales also,
because of the way that they presented themselves so respectably (Ribowsky History
During the first world war, the major leagues were suffering major losses at the
box office because of the large amount of players fighting in the war. The losses of men to
the war was not the major problem, however. The problem was the fact the Phillies and
Athletics fans did not go to the games any more. The fans were going to Hilldale park and
mixing in with the black fans there. The whites had begun to realize how blackball was
much more entertaining. There were stolen bases, faster running, and a larger amount of
scoring. The Hilldales regularly outnumbered the Phillies and Athletics in their box office
sales (Ribowsky History 97).
In 1920, a man named Rube Foster formed a league called The Negro National
League , and invited Bolden to join (Ribowsky History 100). Bolden would not enter
his team into the league however, because he was still upset by a recent loss to one of
Fosters teams. Also, Foster had ignored Hilldale for years (Ribowsky History 101).
When Bolden refused a second time to enter the league, Foster refused to allow any of
the teams in the Negro National League to play the Hilldales, along with the Atlantic City
Bacharach Giants, the Lincoln Giants, and the Brooklyn Giants, all of whom declined his
offer. Because of this, the Hilldales ended up playing mostly white teams (Ribowsky
History 103 & 110).
In 1921, Bolden joined the Hilldales into the Negro National League. That
October, the first Negro World Series was played in Darby, between the Hilldales and the
American Giants. The Hilldales won the series 3-2-1, accomplishing yet another milestone
(Ribowsky History 113).
When the Hilldales went on a road trip, they had so little money that they could
not afford hotels in other cities, even the ones that the black players were allowed to stay
at. Most of the time they slept on the field at the home teams stadium, using their gloves
as pillows. Also, they were still prohibited from playing the teams in their area that had
still not joined the league. In December 1922, Bolden withdrew his team from the league
because it was costing him too much money (Ribowsky History 113-117).
Bolden created a new league called the Eastern Colored League , which
consisted of six teams including the Hilldales. Bolden enriched the Hilldales by signing
players from the Negro National League (Ribowsky History 119).
In 1923, the first year of the new league, the Hilldales took charge and won a total
of 137 games. Also, they won 5 out of 6 games against the Athletics. This accomplishment
might have been bad for them though, and could have ruined their relations with the
Athletics (Bruce 63). In the Negro World Series that year, the Hilldales played the Kansas
City Monarchs in a 9 game series (Bruce 55). Although the Monarchs won in the ninth
game, every player on the Hilldales was still given $193, and that did not bother them
The next year, the Hilldales won the pennant, and so did the Monarchs. The
Hilldales beat the Monarchs in best out of 9 series, winning 5-1 (Bruce 57). This was a
major win for the Hilldales, because they had beaten the team considered as the best ever,
and they were now considered the heroes. Newspapers that had once poked fun at them
now praised them (Clark & Lester 28) .
The Hilldales continued winning, and so did the Monarchs. Once again in 1925,
they faced each other in the World Series (Clark & Lester 28). The Hilldales came away
with the win, however the attendance was so poor that each player only received a $69
bonus. Their reign came to an end that year, and they did not play in the World Series in
1926 nor 1927 (Clark & Lester 28).
In 1928, both the Negro National League and the Eastern Colored League
collapsed (Clark & Lester 28). Teams had lost thousands of dollars, and they could not
pay rent for their stadiums. Tension also grew among players, and there were many brawls
during games. Bolden withdrew the Hilldales first, and they played amateur and semipro
teams that season (Clark & Lester 28). All of the Hilldale games were played at home, and
this resulted in a minor profit for the Hilldales that season. The Eastern Colored league
disbanded later that year, unable to go on without its cornerstone team, the Hilldales. They
tried for a short while with the Philadelphia Tigers, but that project failed (Ribowsky
Hilldale players were greatly effected by this loss of money, and even started
fighting each other (Ribowsky History 132). They knew the end was near, and became
depressed. In 1930, Bolden did not renew the lease on the ballpark, marking the first step
toward the end of the team. Bolden left the team, and three members of the Hilldale
Amusement Corporation, which had been established by Bolden, renewed the lease
(Ribowsky History 132).
The 1930 season for the Hilldales was played mostly against professional clubs,
and that year they posted a record of 42-13 (Clark & Lester 29). Some of the other
professional negro teams had given up, and at the end of the year, so did the Hilldales
(Clark & Lester 29).
In 1932, a man named Cum Posey began a new Negro National League. He
brought the Hilldales Back from extinction, but only briefly (Bruce 83). On July 18, 1932
the team folded for good, only a week after playing a game with an attendance of 196
(Ribowsky History 155).
In 1934, the Philadelphia Stars joined as an expansion team into the Negro
National League, and that year won the pennant (Clark & Lester 29). The downfall came
for the Stars in 1947, but they struggled to survive until 1952, when they played their last
season (majorleaguebaseball.com/nbl/ps.sml) .
The end came for the Negro Leagues in 1947. That year, on April 15, Jackie
Robinson was listed on the Dodgers s lineup at first base. Jackie Robinson was the first
black player in major league baseball (Frommer 131).
Although the Negro Leagues had such a long history, with the integration of black
players into the major leagues, there was no longer a need for separate leagues. Jackie
Robinson led the way for thousands of black baseball players into the major leagues.
Many players from the Negro Leagues went on to the Major Leagues, and the others
retired. Many players from the Negro Leagues are in the Hall of Fame, and most are
regarded as the greatest players to ever play the game (Frommer: Introduction).