Chief curator Daniel Piazza shares intimate knowledge, little-known facts and secrets about the stories told in “Baseball: America’s Home Run,” highlighting some of the spectacular objects on display, including discussions with key lenders to the exhibition on artifacts never-before displayed for pubic view.
Segregation and Negro Leagues
I'm Dan Piazza, curator of the National Postal Museum exhibition, Baseball: America's Home Run, on view until January, 2025.
Join me for an inside look at some of the most exciting objects from this blockbuster show that explores America's national pastime through stamps, mail and memorabilia.
By 1890 Black players were excluded from professional baseball by agreement among White team owners.
African Americans and Latino Americans too, found playing opportunities in the various Negro Leagues as well as in Mexico, Cuba, and the Caribbean.
Despite several attempts to integrate baseball racially, change would have to wait for commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis's 1944 death and the return of Black World War II veterans unwilling to tolerate segregation.
Let's take a closer look.
During his time as a pitcher in the Negro Leagues, Andrew Benjamin Rube Foster regularly sent postcards home to his wife, Sarah and son, Earl including this one mailed from Cuba in 1907.
He later excelled as an owner, manager and organizer leading two Black baseball teams forming the first Negro National League in 1920 and organizing the first Negro World Series in 1924.
After the 1919 World Series gambling conspiracy baseball team owners and League officials chose Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a federal judge with a grandstanding reputation, as baseball's first commissioner.
His efforts to root out gambling and corruption met with approval and judge Landis was thought to be a reformer.
In 1943 he agreed to put the question of desegregating baseball on the agenda for a December meeting of team owners in New York.
This telegram from postal employees in College Station, Texas urged Landis to, quote, deliver a home run by ending segregation in baseball, quote, if Negroes are good enough to appear in the casualty lists, they wrote, then we feel they are good enough to appear in the box score.
Fans all over the country wrote to Landis in advance of the owner's meeting, hoping that he would support integration.
In the end, however, the commissioner declared that integration was a matter for the teams to decide, not the league, and baseball's color line remained in place for nearly four more years.
Major League Baseball finally integrated in 1947, largely by hiring the Negro League's best players leading to the eventual collapse of Black baseball.
The Baseball Writers Association of America voted in 2020 to remove Landis's name from baseball's Most Valuable Player Award, citing his, quote, failure to integrate the game during his tenure.
Rube Foster meanwhile appeared on a U.S. postage stamp honoring the Negro Leagues in 2010.
For more on the intersection of postal and baseball history, visit the National Postal Museum exhibition, Baseball: America's Home Run online at postalmuseum.si.edu/baseball