Today 101 years ago, the Negro National League was born. The first solid Major Negro League that lasted for over a decade and really initiated Negro League Baseball.
On this day in 1920, a group of eight midwestern team owners met at the YMCA in Kansas City (which explains why the Negro League Museum is located in that city) to discuss the establishment of the Negro National League. The talks would take two days and eventually the league was founded together with its governing body the National Association of Colored Professional Base Ball Clubs.
There were some colored leagues in the decades before 1920 but they were mainly organized as minor leagues.
Rube Foster, a former pitcher and owner of the Chicago American Giants, was the driving force behind the Negro National League. A decade earlier, Foster also tried to start an all black baseball league but the time wasn’t right yet. Foster thought that black teams should be owned by blacks as well, and that appeared to be a tough hurdle to take.
The Negro National League consisted of eight teams originally: The Chicago American Giants (Foster’s team), the Chicago Giants, the Cuban Stars, the Dayton Marcos, the Detroit Stars, the Indianapolis ABCs, the Kansas City Monarchs and the St. Louis Giants.
Rube Foster would become the president of the league and he would control every aspect on it. Even which player played for which team. He also provided the equipment that had to be bought from him.
After the establishment of the Negro National League, other professional Negro Leagues popped up like daisies. On March 2nd 1920, the Negro Southern League was founded. The league would join the National Association of Colored Professional Base Ball Clubs. In 1922, the Eastern Colored League was founded as an alternative for the Negro National League. When the Eastern Colored League folded in 1927, it was replaced by the American Negro League that would last only one season.
In 1924, the Negro National League and the Negro Southern League agreed on playing a Colored World Series. The Negro National League champions Kansas City Monarchs and the Negro Southern League champions Hilldale Daisies faced each other in a best of nine (!) series that turned out to last ten games because the third game ended in a tie. The Kansas City Monarchs eventually won this ten-game series 5-4.
Eventually in 1931, the Negro National League would fold due to the economic hardships of the Great Depression. Despite its demise, Negro League baseball was put on the map. Without Rube Foster and the NNL, it might have taken longer before Negro League Baseball had been organized.