Speaker in Diversity Task Force series lectures on forgotten baseball league

By Patrick Gallagher
October 29, 2009

Shannon Keough

A forgotten league was the subject of choice for Courtney Smith, assistant professor of history and political science, in her speech for the Diversity Task Force lecture series. Smith spoke on the forgotten Negro Baseball League and the Philadelphia Stars.

This Diversity Task Force lecture series are ways to showcase what Smith, as well as other professors, are interested in.

“We really enjoy talking about what our passions are, whether it’s in various aspects of history, or for other peoples it’s various aspects of culture,” Smith said.

This was also the subject matter of part of her master’s thesis. The thought of adding in sports was well engrained into Smith after taking the Baseball and the American Tradition class with Dr. James Hedtke and Dr. Joseph Romano at Cabrini College.

“I knew I wanted to do something in history and that it should be something that I loved. Well, I love sports,” Smith said.

The Diversity Task Force lectures are also a way of spreading different subjects through the campus and allowing the students to take in other cultures that they may not have been exposed to.

“They present a great opportunity for diversity to furthering the cause of spreading knowledge through the campus,” Smith said.

The Negro Baseball League and how it was able to slip away is an astounding story that should be told at every level. It was a league with pride and undeniable talent.

There were countless teams and players that matched every level of Major League Baseball, but were not allowed to play due to a “gentlemen’s agreement.” This agreement was an unspoken bond between the owners of the ball clubs. It was said that they had agreed not to sign any African American players.

This agreement would go on to be broken when Jackie Robinson broke the color boundary by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

During Smith’s research, she came across a startling pattern. Starting in “The Inquirer” and “The Bulletin,” she could not find anything about the Philadelphia Stars. Then she began her search through the “Philadelphia Tribune,” which was at the time the largest black newspaper, and found it was covered with Stars articles, as well as other various Negro League baseball teams.

With this find came another anomaly. There were no articles about the Major League Baseball teams anywhere; even when Philadelphia had two separate baseball teams, the Phillies and the Athletics.

In attendance at the lecture was Dr. Romano, philosophy professor, who recollected on his experiences growing up during this era.

“We had no idea that it existed. We never even knew,” Romano said.

He was referring to the Negro Baseball League. It was a forgotten league after its existence and an avoided league one during its life.

The league would be highly covered in on major newspaper and entirely not mentioned in another. It was as if it did not even exist.

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Patrick Gallagher

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