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National Baseball Hall of Fame

Belated Praise for the Negro Leagues

Baseball purists believe that some records should be entered into the books with an asterisk ó to make the point that they were achieved under questionable circumstances. By that standard, every record set in baseball before the late 1940ís, when black players were finally allowed into the big leagues, would be open to qualification.

Before integration, black superstars who could have rewritten the record books spent their careers as barnstormers in a financially precarious league whose marquee teams included the Pittsburgh Crawfords, the Homestead Grays and the Kansas City Monarchs. Predictably, the league began to fade and fail once the walls of segregation came down and black stars who were still young enough to perform defected to better-paying white teams.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame began to make amends for segregation in the 1970ís, when it recognized Negro league luminaries like the pitcher Satchel Paige, the slugger Judy Johnson and the supernatural base runner Cool Papa Bell. It will take another step toward racial reconciliation today when it inducts 17 more talented ballplayers and executives from black baseball.

This group includes Effa Manley, who will be the first woman ever elected to the Hall of Fame. Manley was universally respected as the business manager and co-owner of the legendary Newark Eagles. Among other things, she fought to bring a rational contract system into the league at a time when teams were poaching each otherís players.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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