What really happened in 1947?

The implications of baseball integration for black communities


"Baseball became much more than a game to black America."

-Historian Rob Ruck in Sandlot Seasons

In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the idea asserted by some historians, that the demise of the Negro Leagues was the league's ultimate triumph, is a questionnable notion. Integration did, in a sense, represent the ultimate triumph of the Negro Leagues, for black players proved they were talented enough and deserving of play with white players. But was this really the primary goal of the Negro Leagues? Important to emphasize, the Negro Leagues were not simply a means to an end, but the league was a triumph in itself.

During the heyday of the Negro Leagues, in both locations of Pittsburgh and Birmingham, the Negro Leagues comprised a main force driving the economic success of black owned businesses, both formal, such as black-owned hotels, restaurants and bars, and informal (such as the Numbers.) Both Birmingham and Pittsburgh were new industrial urban communities, products of modernity and industrialization. Baseball, specifically in industrial, sandlot, and especially the Negro Leagues, was a form of protest similar to migrating to these new urban communities; it was a form of protest against the racism and economic injustice faced by blacks. Baseball became a forum for both symbolic political assertion and for real political struggle. Baseball also helped to heal some of the wounds and disruption in black communities caused by the migration, as well as ever-continuing problem of racism.


Baseball teams led to the development of a city-wide sense of black consciousness in both Birmingham and Pittsburgh, as well as neighborhood and workplace identities. Although much of their revenue came from road games and barnstorming, the home community's support was most critical to the team's survival. Truly, baseball was central to the heart and soul of the black communities of Birmingham and Pittsburgh.