wild bill wright

We continue to focus on the Negro Leagues on the Cover the Bases podcast, in recognition of February’s designation as Black History Month. During the first half of last century, the Negro Leagues provided an opportunityfor players who were unable to participate in the major leagues simply because of racial inequality.  It is a critically important baseball story to tell, and we are pleased to have as our guest, Neil Lanctot professor of History at The University of Delaware.

Neil’s book is Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution, published by University of Pennsylvania Press . The book was awarded the prestigious Seymore Medal from SABR honoring the best book on baseball history or biography.   

This book provides a different perspective of the Leagues than the typical analysis of the players, teams and events on the field.  Neil determined that a complete analysis of the business aspects had not been told before, and launched on an effort to uncover any information about the finances and business activities that produced Negro League baseball games.

We take a look at the use of the name “Negro Leagues” as a catchall term for the various loosely affiliated organizations, including the Negro American League (NAL), the Negro National League (NNL), and earlier entities such as the Eastern Colored League.  This does not even take into account the numerous barnstorming Negro teams who traveled the country playing exhibitions against mostly semi-pro industrial teams.

One of the great contributors to the development of the League was a player and owner by the name of Rube Foster.  Not only was he a great pitcher, he also had the vision and the ambition in around 1910 – 1911 to team up with a white tavern owner named John M. Schorling, who was the son in law of Charles Comiskey, owner of the Chicago White Sox.  There was a need to fill the ballpark that was under Schorling’s control, so he teamed with Foster to put players onto teams to use the park.

The business structure lead to many white businessmen getting involved with the League as owners , booking agents and organizers.

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