With his signing to the Brooklyn Dodger’s on April 18, 1946, Jackie Robinson cracked baseball’s color barrier. Making his first appearance with the Montreal Royals in the International League, he was called up to the parent club in the following year, where he helped the Dodgers win a National League pennant. Along the way he also earned National League Rookie Of The Year honors.
Robinson was quickly joined in Brooklyn by other Negro League stars, like Roy Campanella, Joe Black and Don Newcombe. By 1952, the “cream of the crop” of over 150 black players had been lured from Negro League rosters to the newly integrated minor and major leagues.
But, do we know how did Robinson came to the attention of major league scouts – where he played before signing with the Dodgers – baseball’s role in the black community before professional baseball’s integration? The last of the Negro Leagues folded in the 1960s, leaving these and lots of other lingering questions about their rise and fall.
Just in time for the beginning of the baseball season, “Baseball & The Negro Leagues” is on view at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. An expanded exhibition of artifacts from the Negro Leagues is planned for next summer, but for now, this traveling exhibit has 50 artifacts from the Negro League teams on display.