Barnstorm (sports)

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In athletics terminology, barnstorming refers to sports teams or individual athletes that travel to various locations, usually small towns, to stage exhibition matches. Barnstorming teams differ from traveling teams in that they operate outside the framework of an established athletic league, while traveling teams are designated by a league, formally or informally, to be a designated visiting team. [1]

Sport Forms of competitive activity, usually physical

Sport includes all forms of competitive physical activity or games which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators. Hundreds of sports exist, from those between single contestants, through to those with hundreds of simultaneous participants, either in teams or competing as individuals. In certain sports such as racing, many contestants may compete, simultaneously or consecutively, with one winner; in others, the contest is between two sides, each attempting to exceed the other. Some sports allow a "tie" or "draw", in which there is no single winner; others provide tie-breaking methods to ensure one winner and one loser. A number of contests may be arranged in a tournament producing a champion. Many sports leagues make an annual champion by arranging games in a regular sports season, followed in some cases by playoffs.

Exhibition game sporting event wherein the result has no external impact

An exhibition game is a sporting event whose prize money and impact on the player's or the team's rankings is either zero or otherwise greatly reduced. In team sports, matches of this type are often used to help coaches and managers select and condition players for the competitive matches of a league season or tournament. If the players usually play in different teams in other leagues, exhibition games offer an opportunity for the players to learn to work with each other. The games can be held between separate teams or between parts of the same team.

In professional team sports, a traveling team is a member of a professional league that never competes in its home arena or stadium. This differs from a barnstorming team as a barnstorming team competes in exhibition games and not within a league or association framework as a traveling team does. While leagues may designate a traveling team prior to the start of competition, some teams become road teams by simply not scheduling any home games.


Barnstorming allowed athletes to compete in two sports; for example, Goose Reece Tatum played basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters and baseball for a Negro Leagues barnstorming team. Some barnstorming teams lack home arenas, while others go on "barnstorming tours" in the off-season.

Goose Tatum 20th-century African American professional basketball and baseball player

Reece "Goose" Tatum was an African American baseball and basketball player. In 1942, he was signed to the Harlem Globetrotters and had an 11-year career with the team. He later formed his own team known as the Harlem Magicians with former Globetrotters player Marques Haynes. He is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Tatum's number 50 is retired by the Globetrotters.

Harlem Globetrotters Exhibition basketball team

The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team. They combine athleticism, theater, and comedy in their style of play. Over the years, they have played more than 26,000 exhibition games in 123 countries and territories. The team's signature song is Brother Bones' whistled version of "Sweet Georgia Brown". Their mascot is an anthropomorphized globe named Globie. The team plays over 450 live events worldwide each year. The team is currently owned by Herschend Family Entertainment. The executive offices for the team are located in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree Corners.


Teams in baseball's Negro Leagues often barnstormed before, during, and after their league's regular season. [2] Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Satchel Paige barnstorm toured with Dempsey Hovland's Caribbean Kings. Hovland founded (and owned) several barnstorming teams, including the Texas Cowgirls (1949–1977), the first integrated professional women's basketball team to tour worldwide, and the New York Harlem Queens. The Harlem Globetrotters and Texas Cowgirls shared training camps, seasons, and circuits.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Professional sports hall of fame in New York, U.S.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an American history museum and hall of fame, located in Cooperstown, New York, and operated by private interests. It serves as the central point for the study of the history of baseball in the United States and beyond, displays baseball-related artifacts and exhibits, and honors those who have excelled in playing, managing, and serving the sport. The Hall's motto is "Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations."

Satchel Paige American baseball player and coach; Negro Leagues

Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige was an American Negro league baseball and Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher who is notable for his longevity in the game, and for attracting record crowds wherever he pitched.

Dempsey Hovland was a baseball and basketball barnstorming entrepreneur and promoter and multiple sports team owner. He founded the 20th Century Booking Agency, a sports booking management for arranging and marketing of sporting exhibition events and booking of venues. He and his wife Florence Holder Hovland owned the Miss American Teenager beauty pageant in the 1960s and 1970s.

While barnstorming is no longer as popular as it was in the 20th century, some teams such as basketball's Harlem Globetrotters, softball's King and His Court founded by Eddie Feigner and ice hockey's Buffalo Sabres Alumni Hockey Team carry on the tradition. In the 1990s the Colorado Silver Bullets women's baseball team resurrected barnstorming because there was no women's league.

Softball Softball is a game similar to baseball played with a larger ball

Softball is a game similar to baseball played with a larger ball on a field that has base lengths of 60 feet, a pitcher's mound that ranges from 35-43 feet away from home plate, and a homerun fence that is 220 feet away from home plate. It was invented in 1887 in Chicago, Illinois, United States as an indoor game. The game moves at a faster pace than traditional baseball. There is less time for the base runner to get to first while the opponent fields the ball; yet, the fielder has less time to field the ball while the opponent is running down to first base. The name softball was given to the game in 1926, because the ball used to be soft, however in modern day usage, the balls are hard.

Eddie Feigner American softball player

Eddie "The King" Feigner was an American softball player. Feigner was born in Walla Walla, Washington as Myrle Vernon King. He was a softball player for much of his early life, and turned his attention to the sport full-time following an enlistment in the US Marine Corps. He first assembled his four-man team, known as "The King and His Court," in 1946 and took on all comers, first in the Pacific Northwest and then around the country. The team was known for performing tricks that entertained the audience.

The Buffalo Sabres Alumni Hockey Team is an independent barnstorming hockey team located in Buffalo, New York. Its roster consists entirely of retired National Hockey League players, mostly former members of the Buffalo Sabres. The team is operated by the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association.

It was very common in the early days of professional American football; for instance, the Los Angeles Wildcats of the first American Football League (AFL) of 1926 played the regular season as a traveling team, then went on a post-season barnstorming tour of Texas and California, with Red Grange and the New York Yankees as the designated opponent for most of these games. NFL teams were also known to barnstorm in small towns against local teams all the way up through World War II.

The Los Angeles Wildcats was a traveling team of the first American Football League that was not based in its nominal home city but in Chicago, Illinois. Coached by Jim Clark, the team was designed to be a showcase for University of Washington star back George “Wildcat” Wilson. Compared to most traveling teams in professional football, the Wildcats were successful, compiling a 6–6–2 record in the only season of the team’s – and the league’s – existence.

The first American Football League (AFL), sometimes called AFL I, AFLG, or the Grange League, was a professional American football league that operated in 1926. It was the first major competitor to the National Football League (NFL). Founded by Charles "C.C." Pyle, (1882–1939), and General Charles X. Zimmerman, (1865–1926), as Vice President and starring Hall of Fame halfback Harold Edward "Red" Grange, (1903–1991), the short-lived league with nine teams competed against the more established - then six year old NFL, both for players and for fans. While Pyle’s and Grange’s New York Yankees team and the already established Philadelphia Quakers became reliable draws, the lack of star power and the uncertain financial conditions of the other seven teams led to the league’s dissolution after one season.

Red Grange American football player

Harold Edward "Red" Grange, nicknamed "The Galloping Ghost", was an American football halfback for the University of Illinois, the Chicago Bears, and for the short-lived New York Yankees. His signing with the Bears helped legitimize the National Football League (NFL). He is a charter member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

Several auto racers, most notably Barney Oldfield, staged exhibitions around the United States in the early twentieth century. In 1914 he barnstormed against the aviator Lincoln Beachey at least 35 times. [3]

Auto racing motorsport involving the racing of cars for competition

Auto racing is a motorsport involving the racing of automobiles for competition.

Barney Oldfield American racing driver

Berna Eli "Barney" Oldfield was an American pioneer automobile racer; his "name was synonymous with speed in the first two decades of the 20th century". After success in bicycle racing, he began auto racing in 1902 and continued until his retirement in 1918. He was the first man to drive a car at 60 miles per hour (96 km/h) on a circular track.

Lincoln Beachey American aerobatic pilot

Lincoln Beachey was a pioneer American aviator and barnstormer. He became famous and wealthy from flying exhibitions, staging aerial stunts, helping invent aerobatics, and setting aviation records.

In rugby union, the Barbarians, an invitation-only team, are famous for having no ground or clubhouse. [4]


American Football
Ice hockey
Rugby Union


The Lancaster Barnstormers are a professional baseball team based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They are a member of the Freedom Division of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with MLB.

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The Negro leagues were United States professional baseball leagues comprising teams predominantly made up of African Americans and, to a lesser extent, Latin Americans. The term may be used broadly to include professional black teams outside the leagues and it may be used narrowly for the seven relatively successful leagues beginning in 1920 that are sometimes termed "Negro Major Leagues".

Abe Saperstein American basketball player

Abraham Michael Saperstein was the founder, owner and earliest coach of the Harlem Globetrotters. Saperstein was a leading figure in black basketball and baseball in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, primarily before those sports were racially integrated.

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Marques Haynes was an American professional basketball player and member of the Harlem Globetrotters, notable for his remarkable ability to dribble the ball and keep it away from defenders. According to the 1988 film Harlem Globetrotters: Six Decades of Magic, Haynes could dribble the ball as many as 348 times a minute.

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The following is a timeline of the evolution of major-league-caliber franchises in Negro league baseball. The franchises included are those of high-caliber independent teams prior to the organization of formal league play in 1920 and concludes with the dissolution of the remnant of the last major Negro league team, the Kansas City Monarchs then based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in about 1966. All teams who played a season while a member of a major Negro league are included. The major leagues are the original Negro National League, the Eastern Colored League, the American Negro League, the East–West League, the second Negro National League and the Negro American League. Teams from the 1932 original Negro Southern League are also included which allows for the inclusion of the few high caliber minor Negro league teams.


  1. Thomas Barthel (2007). Baseball Barnstorming And Exhibition Games, 1901–1962: A History of Off-Season Major League Play. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. ISBN   978-0786428113.
  2. Justice B. Hill. "Traveling show: Barnstorming was common place in the Negro Leagues". MLB History. Major League Baseball. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  3. Mark Dill. "Barney Oldfield and Lincoln Beachey". First Super Speedway. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  4. "History of the Barbarians", Barbarian F.C. official website
  5. "Bunbury Cricket Club"
  6. "Kaipaki Nation Cricket Club"