The Story Less Told: Breaking The Color Barrier In Baseball's American League

May 7, 2015

Credit McFarland

Even if you're not a baseball fan, you are probably familiar with Jackie Robinson.  He broke the color barrier in the major leagues when he played with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.  

But that was in the National League.  Can you name the first African American to play in the junior circuit? And did you realize one team waited 12 years after Robinson before putting a black player on the field?

Bob McGregor's new book is called "A Calculus of Color: The Integration of Baseball's American League."

"The story was always that the National League was much more aggressive in signing black players than the National League. I wanted to know why," he said.  "What kinds of thought processes were going on?"

The University of Illinois Springfield Professor Emeritus is a fan of baseball and history.  And in his latest work, the two intersect.  He looks at the major leagues, as well as the Negro Leagues and why they were created. He also follows what was a slow process of integration. 
 

"The early pioneers (in integration)...Bill Veeck and Branch Rickey... they were very brave," McGregor said. "The last two holdouts were Detroit and Boston.  They did it basically because they were forced to.  They really had no choice."

"You can't understand American history unless you understand race. I always told my students when I was teaching that is an essential part of who we are. It's also just something that just isn't going to go away."