Today a hundred years ago, the first professional negro league was founded. On the first day of a two-day meeting, eight team owners meet at the YMCA in Kansas City to create one of the most successful Negro League Baseball entities.
Next to establishing the Negro National League, its governing body the National Association of Colored Professional Base Ball Clubs was founded. Owner of the American Giants, Rube Foster will become the president of the new circuit. Originally, eight teams joined the circuit: Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Cuban Stars, Detroit Stars, Indianapolis ABC’s, Kansas City Monarchs, St. Louis Giants and the Dayton Marcos.
The League was characterized by its loose foundation. Many teams played barnstorming games as they were much more lucrative. As a result, the number of games played per team varied a lot.
As president of the Negro National League, Rube Foster was in full control. He decided which players played on which team, he controlled the schedule of the teams and he decided which equipment was used. All the equipment had to be bought from him. Foster also served as the booking agent of the league and got five percent of the gate receipts.
Clubs came and went. From 1920 until 1931, the year the league collapsed due to the Great Depression, twenty-four teams played in the league, many of them didn’t last much longer than one or two seasons.
In the first three years of the league, the Chicago American Giants were vastly dominant, partially because they were favored by Rube Foster as he was the owner of that club as well. But in 1923, the dominance was broken by the Kansas City Monarchs, who would win the championship in the next two years as well. Other champions of the league were:
1926 Chicago American Giants
1927 Chicago American Giants
1928 St. Louis Stars
1929 Kansas City Monarchs
1930 St. Louis Stars
1931 St. Louis Stars
It would not take long for the National League to be the only Negro League. As the league proved rather successful, another professional Negro League was founded in 1923: The Eastern Colored League. The two leagues agreed on playing a Colored World Series in 1924. That overall championship series would be played until 1927. In 1928, the Eastern Colored League folded but reemerged in 1929 as the American Negro League. When Rube Foster was institutionalized the Negro National League slowly went down.
Together with the Negro Southern League, which was also founded in 1920, the American Negro League was the only league to survive the early years of the Great Depression.
Even though the Negro National League collapsed after the 1931 season, the league was a spark plug for Negro League Baseball. It put Afro-American baseball on the map and led to the integration of Major League Baseball eventually.
Like the Major League has its own museum in Cooperstown, so do the Negro Leagues. The Negro League as the Negro League Museum is located in Kansas City (Missouri, not Kansas 😉 ). The museum will lead a national centennial celebration in 2020, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues.