Breaking Baseball’s Color Barrier
Sport can be seen as a microcosm that mirrors the cultural, political, and ethical views of society as a whole. This is especially true of professional baseball as it evolved from its infancy to the sport we now know. As the most widely played sport of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, America’s pastime shows how our country’s views have changed and how we have dealt with issues such as racial inequality. The bravery of individuals like Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey helped to pave the way for the civil rights movement and minimize racial discrimination in American sport. Although our country has unquestionably progressed towards racial equality there is also evidence that shows that prejudice still exists in sport today. Baseball began as an amateur sport in the early 1800’s and became popular in the New York metropolitan area in the mid 1850’s. By 1856 local journals were referring to baseball as the “national pastime”. A year later, sixteen area clubs formed the sport’s first governing body, the National Association of Base Ball Players. As the sport’s popularity and commercial potential grew, the first fully professional baseball clubs emerged and they formed a “gentleman’s agreement” (a discriminatory tactic) that barred the participation of non-whites until 1947. Contrary to popular belief, Jackie Robinson was not the first African-American major-league ballplayer; he was actually only the first after a long gap. Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother Welday Walker participated in major and minor-league clubs until they were barred in the 1880’s along with other African-Americans in baseball. Although no formal ban existed in the major leagues, African-Americans faced discrimination from other players. As prominent players such as Cap Ansen refused to take the field with or against teams with African Americans on the roster, it became formally accepted that African Americans were not to...
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