Today in Baseball: Blacks Allowed to Buy Grandstand seats in St. Louis

For years, Black baseball fans were only allowed to get seats in the bleachers during MLB games. Slowly teams abandoned that policy. On this day in 1944, the St. Louis Browns and Cardinals are the last teams to integrate seating for fans.

It won’t come as a surprise that black baseball fans were discriminated as well. For long, they were not allowed to sit in the grandstands of ballparks. At Rickwood Field for example, America’s oldest ballpark in Birmingham, AL, there was a small section in the right field bleachers where blacks were allowed to sit. “Fun” part though was that it was the other way around with games of the Birmingham Black Barons, as whites were only allowed to sit there.

Rickwood Field - America's Oldest Ballpark - in Birmingham, AL
In this section of Rickwood Field’s bleachers, blacks were allowed to sit

Anyhow, in MLB this policy was slowly abandoned as the owners realized that they could make a buck (what’s new?). But in St. Louis, both MLB teams that shared the same ballpark, Sportsman’s Park, were not as “progressive” as the other MLB clubs. It would take them until April 4, 1944 to allow their colored fans to buy seats in the grandstands.

Strange enough, it would take another three years before colored players were allowed to participate in MLB. Branch Rickey, the President/GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who made it possible for Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier, was running the front office of the Cardinals in the 1930s. During that period, he approached the owner, Sam Breadon, with a proposal to lift the segregated seating in Sportsman’s Park. Breadon told Rickey he personally didn’t care about segregated seating but believed removing the restrictions would be bad for business.

Eventually, the Browns’ and Cards’ decision to end the segregated seating was done without fanfare and received brief mention in publications. There were no press conferences nor any statements made to media. Only a few media published a short article about it: “Restrictions confining Negroes to the right field pavilion have been lifted by both the Cardinals and the Browns, with the colored fans now being allowed to purchase grandstand seats,” The Sporting News reported. “St. Louis had been the only major-league city with this discriminatory rule.”

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