Brace to meet some of the biggest baseball stars of the Negro Leagues. They were men and women of glory and achevement, of spectacular ability and heartbreaking obstacles. They rose above discrimination to pursue their dreams. Cool Papa Bell was once said to be so fast, he could outrun electricity. Another story had Josh Gibson hit a towering fly ball in Pittsburgh that didn't land until the next day-in Philadelphia! Pitcher Satchel Paige won with a blistering fastball when he was young, and then with experience and creativity when he was old. He played with charm and witty sayings: "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." Nobody messed with Oscar Charleston or fielded better than John "Pop" Lloyd.Women such as Peanut Johnson and Toni Stone also made big impressions. These are among the brightest stars of a league, gone but never forgotten.
Like America in the first half of the twentieth century, baseball was still segregated. Every road to the major leagues was blocked by unwritten agreements never to allow black athletes entry. It seemed like the better they played, the further they were pushed back. Until, that is, a plan was hatched by two men. One seized an opportunity to advance the game of baseball forever, and the other ran a path through bigotry like he ran the bases, with strength and grace. Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson would work together to break down the color barriers of baseball, and show the world that African-American athletes were as good and as worthy as anyone to put on a major league uniform. They were not alone. From Larry Doby to Monte Irvin, and the irrepressible Satchel Paige, baseball was gifted by the emergence of a weath of talent and personality that would truly make it, at last, America's pastime.
Before and after the Civil War, the African American community held the same passion for baseball as the rest of the nation. But black players faced prejudice. They were banned from the major leagues. From this group emerged Andrew "Rube" Foster, one of the greatest pitchers and managers of the early twentieth century. The founder of the Negro National League, Foster was called the Father of Black Baseball. Thanks to his vision and efforts, black players were finally respected. The doors to Major League Baseball were opened to black players, and the world could enjoy such superstars as Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron.
Banned from professional baseball in the late 19th century, African-American players were forced to go on the road to make money playing the game they loved. Enduring poor fields and long journeys between games, teams brought their unique and entertaining brand of baseball to towns big and small. Even when they had trouble securing food and lodging because of the color of their skin, these players persevered, opening the door for the ultimate return of African-American athletes to big-league baseball.