The Color Barrier


While integrated baseball teams existed previous to Jackie Robinson's entrance into Major League Baseball in 1947, the color barrier that prohibited African Americans from playing in the "big leagues" was as much a symbol of segregation in American culture as the separate water fountains and bathrooms found all over the country.

Harvard University had an integrated baseball team in 1904 and several club teams, including the Maine baseball team pictured, featured black players on their roster. Still the prejudice against blacks remained deeply rooted in the minds of League officials, the media, and the general public.

Larry MacPhail, owner of the Yankees, called advocates of integrated baseball, "political and social-minded drum beaters. . . talking through their hats." Far from causing outrage, his thoughts were echoed in the media by The Sporting News, which said: "Clear-minded men of tolerance of both races realize the tragic possibilities (of integrating baseball) and have steered clear of such complications, because they realize it is to the benefit of each and also to the game."

Branch Rickey, however, was one of those individuals who didn't agree with the thinking of the time. A secret vote of baseball owners revealed that Rickey was the only one of sixteen that favored integration. An idealist, Rickey hatched an elaborate scheme that unfolded over the course of a few years. He started a black team, the Brown Dodgers, only as an excuse to begin scouting talented Negro League players. Rickey knew he would need a special man to lead his crusade to integrate baseball and he found that man in Jackie Roosevelt Robinson.

Jackie Robinson had the courage to cross the color line, to defy those that had tried to keep him out based simply on his skin color. Cross baseball's color barrier and see what Jackie Robinson had to face in the early years of his quest to integrate baseball.