Sports: On the Baseball Field

Baseball has brought together people from diverse cultures throughout the last century, but until the mid-1900s major league baseball was a segregated game. The all-American game has reflected the nation’s major issues and debates about race and ethnicity. The game has been one way for immigrants and those facing discrimination to negotiate what it means to be American.

Players for the New York Cubans Negro Leagues team, 1930–1940 

Players for the New York Cubans Negro Leagues team, 1930–1940
 

Courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Negro Leagues baseball game, 1953

Negro Leagues baseball game, 1953

Courtesy of Negro Leagues Baseball

All-American Game

Baseball reflects social, political, and cultural issues in the United States, but also made an impact on them. It united people from different backgrounds and provided one way for immigrant groups to seek acceptance.

Bat used by Stan Musial, 1958

Gift of Stan Musial

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Stan Musial was the son of a Polish immigrant.

Helmet used by Carl Yastrzemski, around 1970s

Gift of Carl Yastrzemski

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Carl Yastrzemski was born in a Polish bilingual household.

Diego Seguí was born in Cuba and married into a Mexican American family from Kansas City, Missouri.

Diego Seguí was born in Cuba and married into a Mexican American family from Kansas City, Missouri.

Courtesy of Ronald S. Korda Collection of Sports and Trading Cards, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

A Segregated Game

Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, the exclusion of African Americans from major league baseball reflected racial segregation across the United States. The Negro Leagues offered African Americans the opportunity to play ball.

Reproduction of baseball program, 1946

Reproduction of baseball program, 1946

Pattern bat for Bill Ewing, around 1921–1929

Bill Ewing was a catcher for Negro Leagues teams

Courtesy of Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection, Schenectady County Historical Society

Baseball cleats worn by Jimmie Crutchfield, around 1949–1950

Gift of Jimmie Crutchfield

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Jimmie Crutchfield played for five Negro Leagues teams.

Courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, NY

Batting helmet worn by Buck Leonard, around 1953–1955

Gift of Walter F. Leonard

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