Negro Leagues Baseball

Negro Leagues Baseball

Negro Leagues Baseball

Negro Leagues Baseball

Synopsis

This book traces the entire story of black baseball, documenting the growth of the Negro Leagues at a time when segregation dictated that the major leagues were strictly white, and explaining how the drive to integrate the sport was a pivotal part of the American civil rights movement.

Excerpt

In March 1968, the eminent civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited his friend Don Newcombe in Los Angeles. King was planning a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, to support striking sanitation workers in their fight for fair treatment and wages. Newcombe, now over 40 years old and retired from a Hall of Fame career as a pitcher, almost entirely with the Brooklyn Dodgers, had been one of the first black players from the Negro Leagues to integrate major league baseball. Following his teammate Jackie Robinson, who broke the long-standing color barrier in 1947, Newcombe, along with other black players who first appeared on major league clubs—men such as Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians, Willie Mays of the New York Giants, Roy Campanella of the Dodgers, and others—had endured death threats, taunts, ridicule, and humiliating treatment meted out not only by fans and opposing players but even, on occasion, by teammates. They had been pioneers and Dr. King realized it.

While eating together in a restaurant, King said to Newcombe, “Don, you’ll never know how easy you and Jackie and Doby and Campy made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field.” It was praise Newcombe cherished. He later said, “Imagine, here is Martin getting beaten with billyclubs, bitten by dogs and thrown in jail, and he says we made his job easier” (Vecsey 2009).

On that trip to Memphis, a month after his conversation with Newcombe, King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel. It was a place . . .

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