My teacher said that Bud Fowler should get credit as the first African American to
play professional baseball. Is she right?
-- Kilpatrick Layne, Frisco, Texas
Black Americans played baseball throughout the 1800's, and by the 1860's notable Black
amateur teams such as the Colored Union Club (of Brooklyn) and the Pythian Club (of
Philadelphia) had formed. All-Black professional teams began in the 1880s, among them
the St. Louis Black Stockings and the Cuban Giants (of New York). Reflecting American
society in general, amateur and professional baseball remained largely segregated.
During the 1890s, most professional Black players were limited to playing in exhibition
games on "colored" teams on the barnstorming circuit. Players on major league teams
also barnstormed in cities and towns after the regular season was over. In some places
Black teams and White teams played each other, and some Blacks played for all-Black
teams in otherwise all-White leagues.
- 1878: Bud Fowler, becomes the first Black player to cross the color barrier as a pitcher
for the Lynn, Mass. Live Oaks of the International League.
- 1883: Moses Fleetwood "Fleet" Walker, joins the minor league Toledo Blue Stockings
as a catcher. When the Blue Stockings joined the American Association in 1884, Walker
became the first Black major leaguer.
- 1885: the (NY) Cuban Giants became the very first salaried professional Black baseball
- 1887: In July of 1887, the International League banned future contracts with Black
players, although it allowed Black players already under contract to stay on with
- 1894: Bud Fowler forms an independent Page Fence Giants team in Adrian, Michigan.
- 1901: In an attempt to bypass the color barrier, Baltimore Oriole manager John McGraw
introduced his new player as Chief Charlie Tokohama, a full blooded American Indian.
McGraw's plan backfired when fans in Chicago recognized the 'Chief' as actually being
Charlie Grant, a well known star for the Page Fence Giants.
- 1907: Pitcher Rube Foster begins his managerial career with the Leland Giants as a
- 1920: On February 14, Rube Foster organizes the first Black professional baseball
league (Negro National League) consisting of eight teams: Chicago American Giants,
Chicago Giants, Dayton Marcos, Detroit Stars, Indianapolis ABC's, Kansas City Monarchs,
St. Louis Giants, and the Cuban Stars.
August 2006 response by Todd Bolton, Negro League Baseball Players Association Historian
Negro League Baseball Players Association Web Site