"What interracial sex was to the 1970's, interracial sports were to the 1950's."

-Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in Colored People: A Memoir

The Integration of Major League Baseball

"The cost of baseball integration was high: the black community lost control over its sporting destiny."

-Historian Rob Ruck in Sandlot Seasons

Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to sign a baseball contract

As discussed previously, segregation was a defining element of sport for black Americans, affecting every level of competition ranging from industrial ball to sandlot sports to professional sports. Thus the official integration of Major League baseball, which occurred when the Brooklyn Dodgers recruited Jackie Robinson in 1947, was a ground-breaking event. Moreover, such a move represented the ultimate affirmation of interracial play. Interracial sport was an intimate and forbidden arena for cross-racial interaction, and thus the integration of major league baseball was very symbolic.

Playing a central role in American life and identity, many Americans looked to baseball as a mirror of society. Over time, witnessing the extensive racism that existed in baseball led up to the decision to integrate. According to legend, Chandler said to Branch Rickey, "Someday I'm going to meet my maker. If he had to ask me why I wouldn't let a black man play, what could I tell him? Because of his color? That might not be a good enough answer." Wendell Smith, a journalist for the Pittsburgh Courier, played a central irole bringing about integration in major league baseball. Through his writing, he constantly challenged the basis of segregation in professional sports, and it was he who recommended Jackie Robinson to Branch Rickey as the man most suited to break the color line in professional baseball.

Satchel Paige started in

the Major Leagues in 1948 with the

Cleveland Indians.

Although in response to the injustices of segregation, it is difficult to regard baseball integration in 1947, particularly the reality of integration, as a entirely positive event. On the one hand, integration represented black players proving their talent and readiness to play with white players, an indirect goal of the Negro Leagues. However, it is also important to acknowledge that the black community lost something important when the Negro Leagues folded. The implications of integration for black baseball players, as well as implications for the larger black communities, should not be overlooked.
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