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Baseball pitcher Satchel Paige

Negro League Stars

by Kirk Fox

We take a look back at the stars of the Negro Leagues and their incredible achievements on and off the baseball diamond.

Jackie Robinson (1919–1972)

Getty Images / MLB

After playing in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs, Robinson became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. He broke the baseball color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base April 15, 1947, ending six decades of racial segregation.

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Larry Doby (1923–2003)

Getty Images / Sporting News

With the Newark Eagles, Doby won the Negro League World Series in 1946. Two years later, playing with the Cleveland Indians, Doby and his teammate Satchel Paige became the first Black players to win a Major League Baseball World Series.

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Roy Campanella (1921–1993)

Getty Images / MLB

Campanella played for the Washington Elite Giants in the Negro Leagues and then for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1940s and 1950s, as one of the pioneers in breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Nicknamed “Campy” he is widely considered to have been one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game.

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Toni Stone (1921–1996)

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The first of three women to play in the Negro Leagues, Stone has been called “one of the best players you have never heard of.”

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Mamie ‘Peanut’ Johnson (1935–2017)

Getty Images / Washington Post

Johnson was the first woman to pitch in the Negro Leagues. Signed by the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953, the South Carolina native had a 33–8 win-loss record and a batting average of .262 during her two years with the team.

View Mamie ‘Peanut’ Johnson’s obituary


Ray Dandridge (1913–1994)

Getty Images / Transcendental Graphics / Mark Rucker

Dandridge was one of the greatest fielders in the history of baseball and one of the sport’s greatest hitters for average. By the time Major League Baseball was racially integrated, Dandridge was considered too old to play in the majors. Late in his life, Dandridge was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Buck O’Neil (1911–2006)

AP Photo / Charlie Riedel

O’Neil was a first baseman and manager in the Negro American League. After his playing days he worked as a scout. He also was the first Black coach in Major League Baseball.

See Buck O’Neil’s obituary


Josh Gibson (1911–1947)

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Baseball historians rank Gibson among the very best catchers and power hitters in the history of baseball. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

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Byron Johnson (1911–2005)

Getty Images / Denver Post / Glenn Asakawa

In this 2004 photo Johnson holds a portrait of himself taken when he was playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1930s. The shortstop was known as one of the best defensive players of his time.

View Byron Johnson’s obituary


Buck Leonard (1907–1997)

AP Photo

Leonard was first baseman for the legendary Homestead Grays from 1934 to 1950. The Grays of the late 1930s through the mid-1940s are considered one of the greatest teams of any kind ever assembled. From 1937 to 1945 the Grays won nine consecutive Negro National League championships. Leonard led the Negro Leagues in batting average in 1948 with a mark of .395. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

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Satchel Paige (1906–1982)

AP Photo

With his extraordinary pitching in both the Negro and Major leagues, Paige was a legend in his own lifetime. Paige was among the most famous and successful players from the Negro Leagues. While his outstanding control as a pitcher first got him noticed, it was his infectious, cocky, enthusiastic personality and his love for the game that made him a star. At age 42, he became the oldest rookie to play in Major League Baseball. Paige was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, the first player to be inducted based upon his play in the Negro Leagues.

Read more about Satchel Paige


Cool Papa Bell (1903–1991)

Getty Images / Bettmann

Bell, a center fielder in the Negro Leagues from 1922 to 1950, is considered by many baseball observers to have been one of the fastest men ever to play the game. Stories demonstrating Bell’s speed, some of them certainly exaggerated, are still widely circulated. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

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Judy Johnson (1899–1989)

Wikimedia Commons / AP Photo

Johnson was considered one of the greatest third basemen in the Negro Leagues. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.

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Biz Mackey (1897–1965)

Portrait of Newark Eagles (L-R) pitcher Leniel Hooker, All Star pitcher Max Manning, pitcher Jim Brown, Raleigh “Biz” Mackey & unidentified executive. (Getty Images / Time & Life Pictures / Pix Inc. / Aral)

Mackey was regarded as black baseball’s premier catcher in the late 1920s and early 1930s. His superior defense and outstanding throwing arm were complemented by batting skills that place him among the Negro Leagues’ all-time best. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Oscar Charleston (1896–1954)

Getty Images / Transcendental Graphics / Mark Rucker

Charleston was a Negro League center fielder and manager from 1915 to 1945. A strong hitter, he finished regularly among league leaders in both home runs and stolen bases. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.

More on Oscar Charleston


Smokey Joe Williams (1886–1951)

AP Photo / National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, N.Y.

Smokey Joe Williams, aka Cyclone Joe, was widely recognized as one of the game’s greatest pitchers, even though he never played a game in the Major Leagues. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. Williams spent his entire 27-year career (1905–1932) pitching in the Negro Leagues, in Mexico, and the Caribbean.

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Pop Lloyd (1884–1964)

Getty Images / Transcendental Graphics / Mark Rucker

Lloyd was a strong hitter and is generally considered the greatest shortstop in Negro League history. Reportedly, some experts, including Babe Ruth, have believed Lloyd to be the greatest baseball player ever. He was inducted posthumously into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.

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Rube Foster (1879–1930)

AP Photo / USPS

Foster, who was perhaps the best African American pitcher of the first decade of the 1900s, also founded and managed the Chicago American Giants. Called the “father of Negro Leagues baseball,” Foster organized the Negro National League, the first long-lasting professional league for Black ballplayers, which operated from 1920 to 1931.

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Frank Grant (1865–1937)

(Wikimedia Commons)

Grant was a star in the International League before Jim Crow laws banned Black players. He moved to the Negro Leagues, and is widely considered the greatest African American player of the 19th century. Grant was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

More about Frank Grant


Bud Fowler (1858–1913)

Wikimedia Commons

Fowler is the earliest known African American player in organized professional baseball. He played more seasons and more games in organized baseball than any Black man until Jackie Robinson played his 11th season in 1956.

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