Academic journal article Nine

The Enemies at the Gate: An Economic Debate about the Denouement of Negro League Baseball

Academic journal article Nine

The Enemies at the Gate: An Economic Debate about the Denouement of Negro League Baseball

Article excerpt

Baseball is a perfect metaphor for hope in a democratic society.
Richard Greenberg, Take Me Out

Webster's New World Dictionary defines the term democracy as "government by the people, directly or through representatives." However, in the United States, democracy and capitalism are inextricably linked. Without money one will not be represented in government. The structural weakness and ultimate failure of Negro League Baseball is an example of how African Americans were denied full participation in the market system and, in turn, in American government and society. This study focuses on Negro League Baseball as a microcosm of African American capitalism and society, and how this "alternate" economy failed. Using the Newark Eagles of the second Negro National League as a case study, rather than retelling the American myth of the beneficent Caucasian savior and the naive African American athlete, this discussion will show how it was within the makeup of Major League Baseball to subsume Negro League Baseball. (1) However, although this is ultimately a story of self-interest, through this self-interest came great social good.

Obtaining risk capital for African American entrepreneurship was historically challenging, because financial institutions were located in the Caucasian community's sphere of influence. (2) If the dominant sector of a society controls the market system and chooses to deny a specific (and smaller) sector of the society full economic participation, the dominant sector denies the enclave of all of its civil rights and liberties within that society. Anglo-corporate capitalism disenfranchised African American citizens by denying them full participation in the market system. Although working conditions for African American wage laborers were improving during the first half of the twentieth century, African American entrepreneurs were completely denied opportunities to create corporate leadership roles for themselves. Without representation on an executive level, African Americans were unable to make any strides toward promoting their own self-interests. They were producers of the Caucasian community's interests, only now with higher wages than their parents.

Negro League Baseball, like Major League Baseball, operated almost exclusively in the north, benefiting from the expanding fan base. (3) By the 1940s, 25 percent of African Americans lived in northern industrial cities such as Newark. (4) Newark's history of organized African American baseball began in 1932. That year the Newark Browns played one season in the failed East-West League. Newark's affiliation with the Negro National League began a year after the league's inaugural season. The Newark Dodgers played from 1934 to 1935, culminating with a disappointing record of 28 wins and 55 losses.

Newark's third team, its most storied, entered the league in 1935 as the Brooklyn Eagles. (5) Abe Manley, a numbers king from Camden, New Jersey, owned the team, and his flamboyant (but brilliant) wife, Effa, was its general manager. (6) After the team drew poorly in 1935 because of competition from local African American teams, the Manleys moved the Eagles to Ruppert Stadium in Newark, New Jersey. In Newark the Manleys had an entire city of African Americans eager for baseball. The Newark Eagles would be the only team to bring a "World Series" of any kind to New Jersey and win it. In 1946, ten years after their first season in Newark, the Eagles beat the Kansas City Monarchs in a best-of-seven series. In their championship year the Eagles won 47 games, losing only 16. (7)

The Manleys rented Ruppert Stadium from the Newark Bears of the International League, a farm club of the New York Yankees. The stadium was located in the midst of the factory district on Wilson Avenue. (8) The Eagles agreed to pay the Bears organization 20 percent of the gross gate receipt in cash at the completion of each game. The Eagles also had to furnish "all the necessary help in conducting these baseball games," which included security and all ancillary ballpark personnel. …

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