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You are probably already aware that professional baseball remained segregated for more than half a century before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Major (and minor) league baseball had its own separate leagues for whites and blacks: The American and National Leagues for the white MLB, as well as various minor leagues; and at least seven leagues representing the "Negro Major Leagues." Black professional baseball teams originated in the 1880s, even though two all-black teams squared off as early as 1860. Following the Civil War, more black teams popped up nationally, primarily in the northeast. The Negro leagues continued to operate until Robinson's signing led to the entry of other black major leaguers, effectively putting an end to the separate white/black leagues. Like the American and National Leagues, black baseball also integrated, when "Eddie Klep became the first white man to play for the Cleveland Buckeyes during the 1946 season." But as Robinson's signing became a landmark in professional baseball, it was a death knell for the black leagues, and the Negro American League--after basically being reduced to a minor league--finally disbanded in 1958. It is also interesting that skin color was highly important, since Latin American players were allowed to play in the white leagues, while primarily only Negroes were outlawed. But the Dodgers' owner, Branch Rickey, had long sought the inclusion of African American players, and
Pressured by civil rights groups, the Fair Employment Practices Act was passed by the New York State Legislature in 1945. This followed the passing of the Quinn-Ives Act banning discrimination in hiring. At the same time, NYC Mayor La Guardia formed the Mayor's Commission on Baseball to study integration of the major leagues. All this led to Rickey announcing the signing of Robinson much earlier than he would have liked. On October 23, 1945, Montreal Royals president Hector Racine announced that, "We are signing this boy."
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