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Negro National League (1920–1931)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Negro National League
ClassificationMajor league
SportNegro league baseball
FounderRube Foster
First season1920
No. of teams22; operated asynchronously
CountryUnited States
Most titlesChicago American Giants (5)

The first Negro National League (NNL) was one of the several Negro leagues that were established during the period in the United States when organized baseball was segregated. The league was formed in 1920 with former player Rube Foster as its president.

League history


Rube Foster, 1924, NNL League President

Led by Rube Foster, owner and manager of the Chicago American Giants, the NNL was established on February 13, 1920, by a coalition of team owners at a meeting in a Kansas City YMCA.[1] The formation included the creation of the NLL constitution, written by journalist Cary B. Lewis, David Wyatt from the Indianapolis Ledger, Elwood C. Knox from the Indianapolis Freeman, and attorney Elisha Scott.[2][3]

The new league was the first African-American baseball circuit to achieve stability and last more than one season. At first the league operated mainly in midwestern cities, ranging from Kansas City in the west to Pittsburgh in the east; in 1924 it expanded into the south, adding franchises in Birmingham, Alabama, and Memphis, Tennessee.


The two most important east coast clubs, the Hilldale Club of Darby, Pennsylvania, and the Bacharach Giants of Atlantic City, were affiliated with the NNL as associate clubs from 1920 to 1922, but did not compete for the championship. In 1923 they and four other eastern teams formed the Eastern Colored League (ECL) and raided the NNL for many of its top players, including John Henry Lloyd, Biz Mackey, George Scales, George Carr, and Clint Thomas, and signing Oscar Charleston, and Rube Curry in 1924. The war between the two leagues came to an end in 1924, when they agreed to respect each other's contracts and arranged for the Colored World Series between their champions.

Difficulties and demise

The NNL survived controversies over umpiring, scheduling, and what some perceived as league president Rube Foster's disproportionate influence and favoritism toward his own team. It also outlasted Foster's decline into mental illness in 1926, and its eastern rival, the ECL, which folded in early 1928. The NNL finally fell apart in 1931 under the economic stress of the Great Depression.


The Negro American League, founded in 1937 and including several of the same teams that played in the original Negro National League, would eventually carry on as the western circuit of black baseball. A second Negro National League was organized in 1933, but eventually became concentrated on the east coast.

To distinguish between the two unrelated leagues, they are usually referred to as the first Negro National League (NNL I) and the second Negro National League (NNL II).

Negro National League franchises

Annual final standings: 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931

Member timeline

  • 1920: Formation of NNL consisting of 8 teams – Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis ABCs, St. Louis Giants, Cuban Stars, Dayton Marcos and Chicago Giants.
  • 1921: Dropped Dayton Marcos; Added Columbus Buckeyes.
  • 1922: Dropped Columbus Buckeyes, Chicago Giants; Added Cleveland Tate Stars, Pittsburgh Keystones.
  • 1923: Dropped Cleveland Tate Stars (mid-season), Pittsburgh Keystones; Added Toledo Tigers (mid-season), Milwaukee Bears.
  • 1924: Dropped Toledo Tigers, Milwaukee Bears, Indianapolis ABCs (mid-season); Added Cleveland Browns, Birmingham Black Barons, Memphis Red Sox (mid-season).
  • 1925: Dropped Cleveland Browns; Re-added Indianapolis ABCs.
  • 1926: Dropped Memphis Red Sox, Birmingham Black Barons; Added Cleveland Elites, re-added Dayton Marcos.
  • 1927: Dropped Dayton Marcos, Indianapolis ABCs; Re-added Birmingham Black Barons, Memphis Red Sox.
  • 1929: Dropped Cleveland Tigers.
  • 1930: Added Nashville Elite Giants.
  • 1931: Dropped Memphis Red Sox, Birmingham Black Barons, Cuban Stars; Added Louisville White Sox, (new) Indianapolis ABCs. League fell apart before season end.

League champions

Pennant winners

From 1920 through 1924, the team in first place at the end of the season was declared the Pennant winner. Due to the unorthodox nature of the schedule (and little incentive to enforce it), some teams frequently played many more games than others did in any given season. This led to some disputed championships and two teams claiming the title. The 1931 season did not finish all games, which meant that while St. Louis was awarded the title, non-member Pittsburgh Crawfords disputed their status as champion.[4] From 1924 to 1927, the pennant champion went to play in the Negro World Series. Generally, the team with the best winning percentage (with some minimum number of games played) was awarded the Pennant, but other times it was the team with the most victories. The "games behind" method of recording standings was uncommon in most black leagues.

Year Winning team Manager Reference
1920 Chicago American Giants Rube Foster [5]
1921 Chicago American Giants (2) Rube Foster [6]
1922 Chicago American Giants (3) Rube Foster [7]
1923 Kansas City Monarchs Sam Crawford
José Méndez
1924 Kansas City Monarchs (2) José Méndez [9]
1925 Kansas City Monarchs (3) José Méndez [10]
1926 Chicago American Giants (4) Rube Foster
Dave Malarcher
1927 Chicago American Giants (5) Dave Malarcher [12]
1928 St. Louis Stars Candy Jim Taylor [13]
1929 Kansas City Monarchs (4) Bullet Rogan [14]
1930 St. Louis Stars (2) John Reese [15]
1931 St. Louis Stars (3) John Reese [16]

† – Pennant was decided via a split-season schedule with the winner of the first half of the season playing the winner of the second half of the season, unless one team won both halves.

League play-offs

From 1925 through 1931, the NNL split the season into two halves. The winner of the first half played the winner of the second half for the league Pennant. As mentioned above, disputes also occurred in the split season finishes. 1929 and 1931 saw Kansas City win both halves.[17][18]

Year Winning team Games Losing team Reference
1925 Kansas City Monarchs (first half) 4–3 St. Louis Stars (second half) [19]
1926 Chicago American Giants (second half) 5–4 Kansas City Monarchs (first half) [20]
1927 Chicago American Giants (first half) 4–1 Birmingham Black Barons (second half) [21]
1928 St. Louis Stars (first half) 5–4 Chicago American Giants (second half) [22]
1930 St. Louis Stars (first half) 4–3 Detroit Stars (second half) [23]

Colored World Series

For the duration of the league, a Colored World Series took place four times, from 1924 through 1927. The NNL Pennant winner met the champion of the rival Eastern Colored League. Three out of the four years, the Negro National League team (below in bold) won.

Year Winning team Games Losing team
1924 Kansas City Monarchs 5–4–(1)[T] Hilldale Club
1925 Hilldale Club 5–1[T] Kansas City Monarchs
1926 Chicago American Giants 5–4–(2)[T] Bacharach Giants
1927 Chicago American Giants 5–3–(1)[T] Bacharach Giants


  1. ^ Bolton, Todd. "History of the Negro Major Leagues". Negro League Baseball Players Association. Archived from the original on 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
  2. ^ "Lewis, Cary Blackburn, Sr". Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (NKAA). University of Kentucky Libraries.
  3. ^ Heaphy, Leslie A. (2015). The Negro Leagues, 1869–1960. McFarland. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-4766-0305-6.
  4. ^ "St. Louis Stars". Negro League Baseball Players Association. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  5. ^ "1920 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  6. ^ "1921 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  7. ^ "1922 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  8. ^ "1923 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  9. ^ "1924 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  10. ^ "1925 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  11. ^ "1926 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  12. ^ "1927 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  13. ^ "1928 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  14. ^ "1929 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  15. ^ "1930 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  16. ^ "1931 Negro National League Season Summary |".
  17. ^ "'Play-Off Championship' Series" (PDF). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 March 2014. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  18. ^ "'Play-Off Championship' Series" (PDF). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 March 2014. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  19. ^ "1925 Championship Series: Kansas City Monarchs over St. Louis Stars (4–3)". Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  20. ^ "1926 Championship Series: Chicago American Giants over Kansas City Monarchs (5–4)". Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  21. ^ "1927 Championship Series: Chicago American Giants over Birmingham Black Barons (4–1)". Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  22. ^ "1928 Championship Series: St. Louis Stars over Chicago American Giants (5–4)". Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  23. ^ "1930 Championship Series:St. Louis Stars over Detroit Stars (4–3)". Retrieved December 21, 2021.


  • Holway, John B. (2001), The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues: The Other Half of Baseball History, Fern Park, Florida: Hastings House, ISBN 0-8038-2007-0
This page was last edited on 7 June 2024, at 01:41
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