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. (The Indianapolis Clowns continued on through about 1988, but they had morphed into an entertainment act much as the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team of today.) 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.
The two thick gray lines represent trying times: the first is the Panic of 1893 and the second is the Great Depression in 1933. Both crisis led to financial ruin and collapse of most teams and leagues. The two thick black lines represent the formation of organized league play in 1920 and the integration of Major League Baseball in 1946. After integration, the level of play deteriorated rapidly and dramatically. By 1950 all teams were considered to be of minor league status.
The Negro leagues were United States professional baseball leagues comprising teams 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".
The Kansas City Monarchs were the longest-running franchise in the history of baseball's Negro leagues. Operating in Kansas City, Missouri and owned by J. L. Wilkinson, they were charter members of the Negro National League from 1920 to 1930. J. L. Wilkinson was the first Caucasian owner at the time of the establishment of the team. In 1930, the Monarchs became the first professional baseball team to use a portable lighting system which was transported from game to game in trucks to play games at night, five years before any major league team did. The Monarchs won ten league championships before integration, and triumphed in the first Negro League World Series in 1924. The Monarchs had only one season in which they did not have a winning record. The team produced more major league players than any other Negro league franchise. It was disbanded in 1965.
Walter Fenner "Buck" Leonard was an American first baseman in Negro league baseball and in the Mexican League. After growing up in North Carolina, he played for the Homestead Grays between 1934 and 1950, batting fourth behind Josh Gibson for many years. The Grays teams of the 1930s and 1940s were considered some of the best teams in Negro league history. Leonard and Gibson are two of only nine players in league history to win multiple batting titles.
The color line, also known as the color barrier, in American baseball excluded players of black African descent from Major League Baseball and its affiliated Minor Leagues until 1947. Racial segregation in professional baseball was sometimes called a gentlemen's agreement, meaning a tacit understanding, as there was no written policy at the highest level of organized baseball, the major leagues. A high minor league's vote in 1887 against allowing new contracts with black players within its league sent a powerful signal that eventually led to the disappearance of blacks from the sport's other minor leagues later that century, including the low minors.
The Detroit Stars were an American baseball team in the Negro leagues and played at historic Mack Park. The Stars had winning seasons every year but two, but were never able to secure any championships. Among their best players was Baseball Hall of Famer Turkey Stearnes.
The Birmingham Black Barons were a Negro league baseball team that played from 1920 until 1960. They shared their home field of Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, with the white Birmingham Barons, usually drawing larger crowds and equal press.
The Cincinnati Tigers were a professional Negro league baseball team that was based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Cumberland Willis "Cum" Posey Jr. was an American baseball player, manager, and team owner in the Negro leagues, as well as a professional basketball player and team owner.
The Dayton Marcos were a Negro league baseball team based from Dayton, Ohio that played during the early twentieth century.
The Indianapolis ABCs were a Negro league baseball team that played both as an independent club and as a charter member of the first Negro National League (NNL). They claimed the western championship of black baseball in 1915 and 1916, and finished second in the 1922 NNL. Among their best players were Baseball Hall of Fame members Oscar Charleston, Biz Mackey, and Ben Taylor.
The Pittsburgh Keystones was the name of two historic professional Negro league baseball teams that operated in 1887 and again in 1921 and 1922. The first team was a member of the first black baseball league in 1887, the League of Colored Baseball Clubs. The league only lasted a week, which resulted in a 3-4 record for the Keystones, and included Weldy Walker, the second African-American to play in the major leagues and future hall of famer, Sol White.
The Cuban Stars were a team of Cuban professional baseball players that competed in the United States Negro leagues from 1907 to 1930. The team was also sometimes known as the Cuban Stars of Havana, Stars of Cuba, Cuban All-Stars, Havana Reds, Almendares Blues or simply as the Cubans. For one season, 1921, the team played home games in Cincinnati, Ohio and was known as the Cincinnati Cubans.
The Negro Southern League (NSL) was one of the several Negro baseball leagues created during the time organized baseball was segregated. The NSL was organized as a minor league in 1920 and lasted until 1936. It was considered a major league for the 1932 season and it was also the only organized league to finish its full schedule that season. Prior to the season, several established teams joined the NSL, mainly from the collapsed Negro National League.
Jehosie "Jay" Heard was an American professional baseball player. A native of Athens, Georgia, he was a left-handed pitcher who stood 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 m) tall and weighed 155 pounds (70 kg). He pitched two games in Major League Baseball for the 1954 Baltimore Orioles, becoming the franchise's first African American player in Baltimore.
The Long Branch Cubans were a professional baseball team that played from 1913 to 1916. It was the first U.S. minor league baseball team composed almost entirely of Cubans. Several players, including Dolf Luque and Mike González, went on to play in the major leagues. The Cubans played in Long Branch, New Jersey from 1913 to 1915, except for the first half of the 1914 season, when they played in Newark, New Jersey. In 1916, they started the season playing in Jersey City, New Jersey as the "Jersey City Cubans." Later that summer, they moved their home games to Poughkeepsie, New York, where they were usually referred to as the "Long Branch Cubans." In late July 1916 they briefly moved to Harlem and finally to Madison, New Jersey in August.
The Memphis Red Sox were an American Negro league baseball team that was active from 1920 to 1959. Originally named the Barber College Baseball Club, the team was initially owned and operated by Arthur P. Martin, a local Memphis barber. In the late 1920s the Martin brothers, all three Memphis doctors and businessmen, purchased the Red Sox. J. B. Martin, W. S. Martin, and B. B. Martin, would retain control of the club till its dissolution in 1959. The Red Sox played as members, at various times, of the Negro Southern League, Negro National League, and Negro American League. The team was never a titan of the Negro leagues like wealthier teams in northern cities of the United States, but sound management lead to a continuous thirty-nine years of operation, a span that was exceeded by very few other teams. Following integration the team had five players that would eventually make the rosters of Major League Baseball teams and two players that were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.