It was 65 years ago today that Jackie Robinson laced it up for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. This was one of the most important moments in the history of the United States as it not only opened the doors for African American men to play Major League Baseball, but it also served as a prominent civil rights moment for other areas of American life.
Before Jackie Robinson, their were only two other African-American men to ever play in the major leagues. They were brothers, Moses Fleetwood Walker and Welday Walker who both briefly played for the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884. Moses joined the Blue Stockings in 1883 when the team was part of the Northwestern League, which a minor league from 1883-1884 (It ran again in 1886-1887). After the league disbanded in 1884, Toledo made the jump to the American Association (1882-1891), which was considered a Major League, thus making Moses Fleetwood Walker the first African American player in the history of Major League Baseball. Welday joined the team later in 1884. There time in the majors was very brief as the the Blue Stockings returned to the minor leagues in 1885 and were dissolved at the end of the season.
The Walker brothers continued to play in the various different minor leagues, but never again reached the major league level. They were essentially forced out of professional baseball as league after league started their unofficial ban on non-white baseball players. The ban remained in place until Brooklyn Dodgers general manager, Branch Rickey and Robinson had the courage to challenge the ban in 1947.
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Labels: Branch Rickey, Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson, Moses Fleetwood Walker, Toledo Blue Stockings, Welday Walker