MLB Is Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day

There was pressure on baseball in the 1940s to desegregate.

Major League Baseball is celebrating Jackie Robinson Day, the 75th  anniversary of Robinson making his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. What MLB might not want to highlight is the movement that non-baseball people started in an effort to break the color barrier. The American League and the National League and going back before the formation of the present two league MLB structure, the American Association, were guided by Chicago White Stockings star player Cap Anson in 1883, and imposed an unofficial color barrier that kept Negro players from being on Major League rosters. Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first announced Negro player ever to put on a Major League uniform with Toledo of the American Association in 1884 and also the last Negro player to take off a uniform. Robinson’s debut came 62 ½ years later. In 1947, one city, St. Louis, allowed Negroes or colored people to sit in only one section of the ballpark in the right field bleachers.

There was a movement to integrate baseball in the 1930s.  Sam Lacy, a sportswriter with black newspapers began pressing baseball to hire Negro players. Lacy wanted to meet with Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and was rebuffed. Lacy wanted to meet with Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith in 1936 eventually Lacy talked to Griffith who said no to the idea. There were demonstrations outside of stadiums in New York and Chicago calling for baseball to change its policy. Landis died and the new Commissioner Happy Chandler saw no reason for the color barrier. Chandler might have been persuaded because New York State government officials were asking questions about the color barrier and why African-Americans were excluded from organized baseball yet they were dying fighting in World War II. Baseball slowly moved. Boston owner Tom Yawkey was a holdout but finally hired a Negro player for his team in 1959.

Evan Weiner’s books are available at iTunes –

Evan can be reached at