Archival Collection #113 - Negro Baseball Leagues contains photographs and articles pertaining to players and managers for various Negro Baseball Teams that played during the period, circa. 1900 – 1960s.
The Negro Leagues were formed as a direct result of not being allowed to play or compete in the “white” major leagues during the period from the mid-1880s through the mid-1940s. Teams made up of entirely black players and these teams were known collectively as the Negro Leagues.
In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black player to join the major leagues, which brought to an end the exclusion of black players from major league baseball. However, the players were often jeered at on the field by the fans and teammates alike. A few more players joined the non-black leagues through the 1950s and by 1980 the number of black players was at an all-time high. However, during this time the leagues also drew criticism due to the lack of black players in the ranks of management and other areas “off the field”.
Baseball came to Grand Rapids after the Civil War, although as early as the turn-of-the-century, black teams were playing sandlot baseball. Jess Elster was instrumental in promoting the game of baseball within the black community. He became a player, manager and sponsor. He formed the Athletics (a.k.a. the Colored Athletics) balck baseball team and they played, not only in Grand Rapids, but throughout West Michigan. Jess Elster died in 1950.
In 1947, Ted Raspberry and Frank LaMar organized the Black Sox. This team toured and played in the Midwest and the South. They put together the Midwest League. Ted Raspberry bought the Negro American League’s Kansas City Monarchs and the Detroit Stars in the 1950s. Mr. Raspberry died in April 2001.
A full listing of the contents of this collection can be found in the finding aid that is attached to the media section of this catalog entry.