In June 2021, Sports-Reference dramatically expanded its database of statistics related to Negro League Baseball. However, the story of Black baseball goes beyond the stats. These Black ballplayers were major league quality but were not treated as such by the American and National Leagues. These African Americans were citizens of the United States, but were not treated as such by the government of their own country.
In the weeks to come, join sports historian Curtis Harris as he interviews a range of guests to celebrate and recognize the fact that Negro Leagues Are Major Leagues
Episode Seven: Women in the Negro Leagues
On today's episode, Curtis talks to Dr. Leslie Heaphy, who teaches sports history at Kent State University and has contributed to several books, including The Encyclopedia of Women in Baseball. Their topic today is the history of women in baseball, specifically Black baseball.
The conversation starts with a broad history of women in the game, as spectators, reporters, and players, before moving on to the Negro Leagues, where Dr. Heaphy talks about some of the women who played the game, owned the teams, and helped run the leagues. They touch on Effa Manley, who is currently the only woman in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and discuss the difficulties of researching this topic.
You can read Dr. Heaphy's piece on women in Black baseball on Baseball Reference: https://www.baseball-reference.com/articles/women-in-the-negro-leagues-leslie-heaphy.shtml
Also, congratulations to DOCTOR Curtis Harris on successfully defending his dissertation this week!
Episode Six: Bringing Down the Color Line
In the conclusion of our three-part miniseries about the rise, maintenance, and eventual fall of the color line in the American and National Leagues, Curtis is joined by Michael Lomax, an author and retired professor of sport management. They discuss the journey that led to Jackie Robinson taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, ending decades of segregation in professional baseball.
But the process of integrating the AL and NL wasn't a smooth one, and it largely happened on the terms of the white owners, at the expense of the Black people who owned, managed, and operated Negro League ballclubs. Curtis and Michael also discuss the day-to-day operations of Negro League clubs, the business behind successful baseball teams, and why the Negro Leagues ultimately came to an end.
You can read Michael's piece on the business and legacy of Black baseball on our site https://www.baseball-reference.com/articles/a-black-baseball-legacy-michael-e-lomax.shtml
Episode Five: Maintaining the Color Line
This week, we continue our three-part series on how the color line was drawn, maintained, and ultimately brought down, as Curtis speaks to Todd Peterson, a researcher and the editor of the book The Negro Leagues Were Major Leagues. Todd talks about what inspired him to pursue Negro League research and the process of putting together the book with likeminded researchers. He then shares some of the statistics he's found that show how the quality of play in the Negro Leagues was on par with the American and National Leagues. Curtis and Todd also talk about how the leadership of the American and National Leagues went to great lengths during this period to keep baseball segregated, the difficulties researchers face in trying to track down data from exhibition and barnstorming games, and why it's important for all baseball fans to learn the story of the Negro Leagues.
You can buy The Negro Leagues Were Major Leagues from the publisher or wherever you get your books https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/the-negro-leagues-were-major-leagues/
Todd also contributed a piece to Baseball Reference with more stats that show the Negro Leagues were Major Leagues https://www.baseball-reference.com/articles/negro-leagues-major-leagues-todd-peterson.shtml
Episode Four: Drawing the Color Line
In the first of a three part look at how the color line was established, maintained, and ultimately brought down, Curtis talks to Ryan Swanson. Ryan is an associate professor at the University of New Mexico, focused on sports history. He wrote the book When Baseball Went White, a history of the origins of baseball’s segregation and the mechanics of its implementation.
Ryan and Curtis talk about how the history of early baseball, in the 1860s and 1870s, is deeply intertwined with the politics of Reconstruction, and how the missed opportunity of the latter is reflected in the conscious choice by baseball's white leaders to construct the color line. They also discuss how segregation was indeed a conscious choice and why white officials decided that a segregated game would be easier to sell to a post-war audience. And in between they touch on the formation of the earliest Black baseball clubs, how the post-war drive to create and join community groups led to a boom in baseball teams, and how sports and politics are closely intertwined.
You can order When Baseball Went White from Nebraska Press or wherever you get your books https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/nebraska/9780803235212/
Learn more about Ryan's work on his website https://www.ryanswanson21.com/
Episode Three: Appreciate Your Local Historian
On this episode, Curtis talks to Gary Ashwill, a baseball historian who has studied the Negro Leagues, minor leagues, and Cuban baseball. Most relevantly, Gary is the lead researcher for Seamheads, the team that researched and assembled the Negro League statistics database that is now being hosted on Baseball Reference.
Gary tells us about the difficulties and challenges faced by him and other researchers as they went about trying to piece together the record of statistics for Negro League teams and players from nearly 100 years ago. Gary also touches on why he first got interested in the history of the Negro Leagues, how the Seamheads database came together, and why it matters for all baseball fans.
Check out Gary's work at https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/index.php
You can also read a piece by Gary about the process of putting together the database on our site https://www.baseball-reference.com/articles/building-the-seamheads-negro-league-database-gary-ashwill.shtml
And of course, you can see all of the Seamheads data on https://www.baseball-reference.com/
Episode Two: Discover Greatness
On this episode, Curtis talks to Dr. Ray Doswell, the curator and education director at the Negro Leagues History Museum in Kansas City. The museum, established in 1990, has been one of the most important resources for information and history about the Negro Leagues. Dr. Doswell talks to us about how he became interested in baseball, the day-to-day operations of the museum, the surprising parallels between the era when the National Negro League was established and today, and some of his favorite pieces in the museum's collection.
All baseball fans should plan a trip to Kansas City to visit the Negro Leagues History Museum! To learn more about the museum or make a donation so they can continue their work, head to https://nlbm.com/
Covers in depth the history of the negro leagues and their relevance to today.