Jackie Robinson: I Never Had It Made

(1972)

Context

For much of its history, MLB did not permit African American players in its ranks. There were a few scattered examples of African American or Hispanic players in the nineteenth century, including Moses “Fleetwood” Walker and Bud Fowler, but by the 1890s an unwritten rule forbade people of color from participating in Organized Baseball. In response, black ballplayers formed their own professional clubs, playing each other as well as white semiprofessional teams. Talented stars like the famous shortstop John Henry Lloyd (often called the black Honus Wagner) were virtually unknown in the larger white community but continued to sharpen their skills on all-black teams. There were a few aborted attempts to hire African American players, including one by John McGraw of the Baltimore Orioles, who in 1901 attempted to pass off his new player, Chief Charlie Tokohama, as a full-blooded Native American. In reality, the chief was an African American player, Charlie Grant, who...

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Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Library of Congress)

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