A Pastime of Their Own: The Story of Negro League Baseball is your chance to delve into this fascinating history. Taught by Professor Louis Moore of Grand Valley State University, these 12 scintillating lectures take you onto the field and into the smoky back rooms of the business world as Black athletes and entrepreneurs created a thriving world of Black American baseball teams and leagues.
A Pastime of Their Own: The Story of Negro League Baseball
Louis Moore is a Professor of History at Grand Valley State University. He earned his PhD in History from the University of California, Davis. He is the author of We Will Win the Day: The Civil Rights Movement, the Black Athlete, and the Quest for Equality and I Fight for a Living: Boxing and the Battle for Black Manhood, 1880–1915. He has also written for the Daily News, Vox, The Global Sport Institute, First and Pen, and the African American Intellectual Historical Society. He has discussed sports and race on NPR, MSNBC, and BBC Sport, and he cohosts the podcast The Black Athlete.
01: Emancipation and the American Pastime
Play ball! The recorded history of Black American baseball goes back to the 1850s, when the competition between two teams in New York was recorded in an African American newspaper. Trace the explosion of the game after the Civil War, from informal Juneteenth celebrations to professional teams.
02: Drawing the Color Line
The story of Black baseball mirrors the story of America. While segregation is a dominant theme through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, baseball originally was an integrated sport during Reconstruction. Learn about the infamous “gentleman’s agreement” that kept Black ball players out of professional leagues.
03: Black Ball Goes Pro
As segregation took hold in the professional leagues, explore the world Black baseball players had to navigate in the late 19th century. Meet some of the best players, the burgeoning teams such as the Cuban Giants, and witness the early efforts of Bud Fowler and others to establish a professional Black sport.
04: Rube Foster: A Baseball Lifer
The history of Black baseball owes much to Andrew “Rube” Foster, a Hall of Fame pitcher, manager, and owner who was the sport’s first true superstar. See his athletic on the field, including his fondness for “small ball,” and then turn to his Chicago business ventures. This pioneering figure set the stage for new developments in the sport.
05: The Negro National League
Continue your study of Rube Foster as he creates the first Black baseball league. As you will discover, team owners faced a number of financial and logistical challenges, so in 1920 a group of seven sat down at a Kansas City YMCA and organized the Negro National League. Despite ballpark challenges, the league’s first year was a financial success.
06: The Eastern Colored League
The Negro National League may have been a success, but longstanding rivalries meant it would not be the only league in the sport for long. In this lecture, meet Ed Bolden, whose vision of Black baseball rivaled Rube Foster’s—and led to the creation of the Eastern Colored League in Philadelphia.
07: The Troubled Twenties
In 1924, the two leagues held the first Black World Series between the Kansas City Monarchs and the Hilldale Daisies. From this pinnacle moment, both leagues experienced a gradual decline in the 1920s. Delve into the highs and lows of Black baseball leading up to the Great Depression.
08: Making a Way out of No Way
The Great Depression nearly destroyed Black baseball, but in this lecture you will discover a story of triumph over tragedy. Meet Pittsburgh rivals Cumberland Posey and Gus Greenlee who built a league that could endures. Then shift your attention to a pair of all-star players: Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige.
09: The East-West Classic
From 1933 to 1953, the East-West Classic was the crown jewel of Black baseball, drawing more than 50,000 fans at its peak. Here, survey some of the highlights of this all-star game and meet some of the major players of the era—including fan favorite Oscar Charleston, manager and first baseman for the Crawfords.
10: Surviving the Great Depression
Return to the Great Depression to get a more complete picture of what was happening with Black baseball. Examine the lives of Gus Greenlee, Effa Manley, Satchel Paige, and others who influenced the sport and helped Black baseball endure the country’s lowest economic era.
11: The Negro American League
The Negro American League was a success, particularly in the Midwest and then in the South. However, rivals in Philadelphia and New York saw an opportunity to build a new organization in the mid-1930s, which added teams and increased opportunity for Black baseball—even as the white Major League Baseball organization prepared to integrate.
12: Integration and the Negro Leagues
Integration was inevitable, and America’s entry into World War II helped highlight the color line in America’s pastime. In this final lecture, see how Jackie Robinson and then Larry Doby changed the sport by joining the Major League. The history of segregated Black baseball had ended.