Negro League Baseball and its storied legacy rightfully began in the late 1880s, but on this day in 1920, Andrew “Rube” Foster, known universally as the “father of Black baseball,” established the Negro National League (NNL) and held its first game in Indianapolis.
Foster was considered by many the best Black pitcher of his time, and even played on a multi-ethnic minor league team in the early 1900s. Black players were able to play professionally in small leagues and in Latin America before the NNL’s existence, all done in response to not being unable to play for the largely White major and minor leagues.
Foster, like many other Black players, found fame as a Negro League player. Much like his predecessors of the 1880s, Foster joined forces with other team owners in the Midwest to form the NNL in response to the lack of opportunities present for Black baseball players who were just as gifted as their White counterparts.
The NNL lasted from 1920 to 1931, making it the first Negro League to find success beyond one season. Foster’s Chicago American Giants faced off against teams from Indianapolis, St. Louis, Cleveland and other cities in the region.
However, Foster’s mental health and finances declined and the NNL failed under the pressures of The Great Depression. The NNL’s success did give rise to a series of other Black baseball leagues, such as the Eastern Colored League (ECL) and the Negro American League (NAL).