Inclusion was not the name of the game in the early days of America’s pastime sport. From the late 1870s to 1945, baseball was neither inclusive nor diverse. The road to integration was paved with colorful characters, stubborn management and growing athleticism.
Professor Emeritus of History, Donald Walker, talked about the integration of baseball during another presentation of the Dean’s Scholarship Series, Nov. 12, in Burrage Library.
About 20 people gathered in the Fireplace Room to hear how the Negro leagues gradually were able to feed players into the Major League and how this integration was not an easy sell.
One fact that Walker brought out was that Major League Baseball never took a stand on segregation, so it was “unofficial” he said, with excuses like no player of color was ever good enough, in part because they never got the same opportunities as their counterparts. That sentiment was in place in 1947, when Jackie Robinson came on the scene, and did not go away for many more decades.
What eased the way for people of color in baseball started with World War II and the lack of players available on home soil. More players were needed. The athleticism of Negro players was finally being recognized, and talent, no matter what the color, was touted by sports writers, not only in baseball, but for others sports as well.
The hour-long lecture drew a variety of questions from other notable other emeriti professors and staff, who, along with current staff, visitors and students, participated in the discussion.