List of Negro league baseball champions

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This List of Negro league baseball champions includes champions of black baseball prior to the organization of any traditional Negro league and goes through to the collapse of segregated baseball after Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color line in 1946. Champions include self-declared, regional and (later) league champions, but is limited to top-tier teams and major Negro leagues. The champions listed after 1948 through the 1950s are listed for posterity, but the quality of play had deteriorated so far as to only incidentally be covered by contemporary media or historians.

1867–1891: Era of amateur and semi-pro teams[edit]

During the formative years of black baseball, most Negro teams toured the US playing white or mixed-race teams of an amateur or semi-pro standing. There was little to no collaboration between black teams, and few if any scheduled meetings. Therefore, during this era, it was usually up to an individual team (or newspaper writer) to declare themselves the black champion and see if anyone challenged them.

Year Champion Games Runner-up Ref
1867 Philadelphia Excelsiors 1-0 Brooklyn Uniques [1]
1868
1869 Philadelphia Pythians 1-0 Chicago Uniques [1]
1870–86
1887 New York Gorhams 1-0 Cuban Giants [1]
1888 Cuban Giants tourn.* Pittsburgh Keystones [1]
1889 New York Gorhams 2–0 Cuban Giants [1]
1890–91
Notes:

* — 1888 Four teams were selected by the Cuban Giants' owner to participate in a tournament to select a "Colored Champion"; the New York Gorhams finished third and the Norfolk Red Stockings finished fourth.

1892–1894: First crisis for organized black teams[edit]

There were no championships claimed during this period.

Beginning around 1890, political and economic turmoil—eventually leading to the Panic of 1893—took a toll on the bottom line of each Negro team. Every significant Negro team, except for two, ceased operations entirely. Only one team, the Chicago Unions, managed to survive the crisis intact; while the Cuban Giants suspended play at the end of 1891 but reformed for the 1893 season.[2]:30

1895–1919: Era of independent barnstorming teams[edit]

Segregated baseball leagues, both black and white, started to appear around this time. Starting in 1887, the International League began prohibiting the signing of black players. By 1890, the last of the "white" leagues (the American Association and the National League) had unofficially banned blacks, and the color line was drawn. Early on, due to social and lingering fiscal reasons, there was minimal interest and press coverage regarding black teams, so champions were not easily determined. After the economic crisis had subsided around 1897, black teams began actively competing against other black teams for local or regional championships.

Western-region champions Eastern-region champions
Year Lg Champion Games Runner-up Ref Year Lg Champion Games Runner-up Ref
1895 1895
1896 1896 Page Fence Giants 10–5 Cuban X-Giants [1]
1897 1897 Cuban X-Giants 2–1 Genuine Cuban Giants [1]
1898 1898
1899

Chicago Unions[note 1]

Chicago Columbia Giants[note 1]

β

5–0



Chicago Unions

[1] 1899 CUBAN X-GIANTS β [1]
1900a

1900b

CHICAGO UNIONS

CHICAGO COLUMBIA GIANTS

β

β




[3] 1900a

1900b

Cuban X-Giants

Genuine Cuban Giants

β

β




[3]
1901 1901
1902 1902
1903 Algona Brownies ?–? Chicago Union Giants [3] 1903 Cuban X-Giants 5–2 Philadelphia Giants [3]
1904 1904 Philadelphia Giants 2–1 Cuban X-Giants [3]
1905 1905 Philadelphia Giants 3–0 Brooklyn Royal Giants [3]
1906 1906 Philadelphia Giants 5–0 Cuban X-Giants [3]
1907 1907
1908 CHICAGO LELAND GIANTS β [3] 1908 PHILADELPHIA GIANTS β [3]
1909 Chicago Leland Giants β* [3] 1909 PHILADELPHIA GIANTS β [3]
1910 Chicago Leland Giants (II) β [4] 1910 Cuban Stars of Havana § [4]
1911 Chicago American Giants § [5] 1911 Cuban Stars of Havana § [5]
1912 Chicago American Giants § [6] 1912 New York Lincoln Giants § [6]
1913 Chicago American Giants β [7] 1913 NEW YORK LINCOLN GIANTS β [7]
1914 Chicago American Giants § [8] 1914 [8]
1915 Chicago American Giants β [3] 1915 NEW YORK LINCOLN STARS β [3]
1916 Indianapolis ABCs 4–1 Chicago American Giants [9] 1916 [9]
1917 CHICAGO AMERICAN GIANTS β [10] 1917 New York Lincoln Giants β [10]
1918 Chicago American Giants β [11] 1918 New York Lincoln Giants β [11]
1919 Detroit Stars β [12] 1919 AC Bacharach Giants 9–5 Hilldale [3]
  Team in CAPITAL LETTERS went on to win that season's World Series     Team went on to lose that season's World Series

β — Self-declared champion or unchallenged
§ — Unofficial champion derived from estimates of the known won-loss records; no team claimed or was awarded a championship in these years due mainly to the organized schedule being abandoned for financial reasons and the team listed is only a generalization

* — Disputed. Chicago won the "Chicago City League" tournament but the Kansas City Giants and St. Paul Gophers had both beaten Chicago and both claimed to be the "Champions of the West".

Notes:
  1. ^ a b The X-Giants initially played the Unions for the championship; during the series, Columbia stepped up and issued challenges to the Unions for the Western championship and the X-Giants for the Colored championship.
Colored champions

The championships during this period were informal as the post-season challenges were issued by the individual teams.

Year Region Champion Games Region Runner-up Ref
1899a

1899b

East

East

Cuban X-Giants

Cuban X-Giants

9–5

7–4

West

West

Chicago Unions

Chicago Columbia Giants

[1]
1900a

1900b

West

West

Chicago Unions

Columbia Giants

?–?

?–?

East

East

Cuban X-Giants

Genuine Cuban Giants

[3]
1908 West
East
Chicago Leland Giants
Philadelphia Giants
3–3
(tie)
[3]
1909 East Philadelphia Giants 3–1 West Chicago Leland Giants [3]
1910 West Chicago Leland Giants (II) β [3]
1913 East New York Lincoln Giants 7–4–1 West Chicago American Giants [3]
1915 East New York Lincoln Stars* 4–4–1
(tie)
West Chicago American Giants [3]
1917 West Chicago American Giants 4–3 East New York Lincoln Giants
Notes:

a,b — The X-Giants initially played the Unions for the championship; during the series, Columbia stepped up and issued challenges to the Unions for the Western championship and the X-Giants for the Colored championship.
* — 1915 Lincoln Stars were leading in the fourth inning of the ninth and deciding game when the game was called and never completed; the Stars then beat the second place Indianapolis ABCs 4 games to 2 and claimed the colored championship for 1915.

1920–1931: First endeavor of organized league play[edit]

With the emergence of the hard-fisted leadership of former pitcher Rube Foster, playing a formal scheduled season between other black teams became reality. Foster, known for his business acumen, recognized that attendance was just high enough so that a reasonable profit can be derived from gate receipts to sustain the travel and commitment required to maintain a league schedule. This led to the formation of a handful of official Negro leagues, and later to a planned end-of-season World Series.

Western-region champions Eastern-region champions
Year Lg Champion Games Runner-up Ref Year Lg Champion Games Runner-up Ref
1920 NNL1 Chicago American Giants 1920 Brooklyn Royal Giants
Hilldale Club
1–1–2
(tie)
1921 NNL1 Chicago American Giants 1921 Bacharach Giants
Hilldale Club
2–2
(tie)
[13]
1922 NNL1 CHICAGO AMERICAN GIANTS 1922 Bacharach Giants of New York §
1923 NNL1 Kansas City Monarchs 1923 ECL Hilldale Club
1924 NNL1 KANSAS CITY MONARCHS 1924 ECL Hilldale Club
1925 NNL1 Kansas City Monarchs1 5–3 St. Louis Stars2 [14] 1925 ECL HILLDALE CLUB
1926 NNL1 CHICAGO AMERICAN GIANTS2 5–4 Kansas City Monarchs1 [14] 1926 ECL Bacharach Giants
1927 NNL1 CHICAGO AMERICAN GIANTS1 4–0 Birmingham Black Barons2 [14] 1927 ECL Bacharach Giants
1928 NNL1 St. Louis Stars1 5–4 Chicago American Giants2 [14] 1928 Bacharach Giants §
1929 NNL1 Kansas City Monarchs1&2 [14] 1929 ANL Baltimore Black Sox1&2
1930 NNL1 St. Louis Stars1 4–3 Detroit Stars2 [15] 1930 Homestead Grays 6–4 New York Lincoln Giants [13]
1931 NNL1 St. Louis Stars1&2 [15] 1931 Hilldale Daisies §
  Team in CAPITAL LETTERS went on to win that season's World Series     Team went on to lose that season's World Series

1 — First half champion   2 — Second half champion   1&2 — Both first and second half champion
§ — Unofficial champion derived from estimates of the known won-loss records; no team claimed or was awarded a championship in these years due mainly to the organized schedule being abandoned for financial reasons and the team listed is only a generalization

World champions

Beginning in 1924, the championships during this period were formal, pre-arranged post-season challenges agreed to by the respective leagues. The 1922 championship was an informal post-season challenge issued by the individual teams.

Year Lg Champion Games Lg Runner-up Ref
1922 NNL1 Chicago American Giants 3–2 East Bacharach Giants of New York§ [13]
1924 NNL1 Kansas City Monarchs 5–4–1 ECL Hilldale Club
1925 ECL Hilldale Club 5–1 NNL1 Kansas City Monarchs
1926 NNL1 Chicago American Giants 5–4–2 ECL Bacharach Giants
1927 NNL1 Chicago American Giants 5–3–1 ECL Bacharach Giants
Other post-season exhibitions:
Notes:
  • 1923 no World Series due to NNL feud with ECL over player raids.

1932–1935: Second crisis and rebuilding[edit]

Crisis

Several factors led to the collapse of league play beginning with the 1928 break up of Eastern Colored League and then the 1929 folding of the American Negro League. These leagues were constantly warring with the Negro National League regarding player raiding and contract disputes; this led to an instability that was incompatible with the weakening economy. That October saw the 1929 stock market crash, known as Black Tuesday, which was a sign of things to come. In 1930, the NNL collapsed (largely due to the death of Rube Foster) but the individual teams continued to play. The NNL regrouped for 1931, but again collapsed — this time for good and the teams were on their own. By 1932, the Great Depression had taken a severe toll on the entire country. Only a few organized Negro leagues survived and all of those were either a minor or semi-pro league. The Negro Southern League was considered the highest quality surviving league and many players (and two teams) migrated to it; it therefore became the de facto major league for the 1932 season.

Year Lg Champion Games Runner-up Ref
1932

1932

NSL

EWL*

Cole's American Giants2

Detroit Wolves

5–3

§

Nashville Elite Giants1


[15]

[2]:288

* — The East-West League was unable to survive the low attendance due to the Depression and folded mid-season; the Detroit Wolves had the best record at the time the league ceased operations, though no official champion was ever declared. The Wolves later ended up going broke and also folding before the end of the season.

Rebuilding

After the worst of the depression had passed, teams were again able to profit from playing a league schedule. At first, only a few team owners were able to put together enough investors to join a league; therefore, for the first time in black baseball, one league spanned both the eastern and western regions of the US. A new Negro National League was formed with both east and west teams.

East/West champions
Year Lg Champion Games Runner-up Ref
1933 NNL2 Pittsburgh Crawfords2* 0–0–1
(tie)
Cole's American Giants1 [2]:303
1934 NNL2 Philadelphia Stars2 4–3–1 Chicago American Giants1 [15]
1935 NNL2 Pittsburgh Crawfords1 4–3 New York Cubans2 [2]:320–21

* — 1933 Pittsburgh Crawfords claimed first half title; the Chicago American Giants disputed that claim but the league dismissed it. Pittsburgh and the Nashville Elite Giants tied for the second half title; Pittsburgh beat Nashville in a playoff 2 games to 1. Pittsburgh was awarded the championship by the league's president (who was also the owner of the Crawfords).[15]

1936–1948: Negro league glory years[edit]

Negro league baseball hit its stride after the country had recovered from the devastation of the Great Depression. The second incarnation of the Negro National League became the "eastern" league and a year later the new Negro American League assumed the role of the "western" league. Both leagues generally respected the players' contracts and a relative peace existed between the leagues. An agreed upon championship series was held at the end of the season between each league's pennant winner. Only integration could challenge their success, and it came in 1946. By 1949, the NNL broke up and the NAL was the only league in operation.

Western-region champions Eastern-region champions
Year Lg Champion Games Runner-up Ref Year Lg Champion Games Runner-up Ref
1936 1936 NNL2 Pittsburgh Crawfords2 declared over Washington Elite Giants1
1937 NAL Kansas City Monarchs1&2 * [15] 1937 NNL2 Homestead Grays
1938 NAL Memphis Red Sox1 2–0* Atlanta Black Crackers2 1938 NNL2 Homestead Grays
1939 NAL Kansas City Monarchs1 3–2 St. Louis Stars2 [15] 1939 NNL2 Baltimore Elite Giants(3rd) 3–1–1
(tourn.)*
Washington Homestead Grays1&2(1st) [15]
1940 NAL Kansas City Monarchs 1940 NNL2 Homestead Grays
1941 NAL Kansas City Monarchs 1941 NNL2 Washington Homestead Grays1 3–1 New York Cubans2 [16]
1942 NAL KANSAS CITY MONARCHS [2]:392 1942 NNL2 Washington Homestead Grays [2]:394
1943 NAL Birmingham Black Barons1 3–2 Chicago American Giants2 [16] 1943 NNL2 WASHINGTON HOMESTEAD GRAYS [2]:407
1944 NAL Birmingham Black Barons [2]:413 1944 NNL2 WASHINGTON HOMESTEAD GRAYS [2]:415
1945 NAL CLEVELAND BUCKEYES [2]:422 1945 NNL2 Washington Homestead Grays [2]:424
1946 NAL Kansas City Monarchs [2]:432 1946 NNL2 NEWARK EAGLES [2]:435
1947 NAL Cleveland Buckeyes [2]:445 1947 NNL2 NEW YORK CUBANS2 * Newark Eagles1 [16]
1948 NAL Birmingham Black Barons1 4–3 Kansas City Monarchs2 [16] 1948 NNL2 WASHINGTON HOMESTEAD GRAYS2 3–0 Baltimore Elite Giants1 [16]
  Team in CAPITAL LETTERS went on to win that season's World Series     Team went on to lose that season's World Series

1 — First half champion   2 — Second half champion   1&2 — Both first and second half champion

  • 1937 – Chicago American Giants disputed first half title so a play-off occurred: Kansas City defeated Chicago 3 games to 1 with 1 tie.[15]
  • 1938 – declared "no contest"
  • 1939 Grays owner offered a trophy to a 4-team tournament winner. First round:
  • 1947 – Newark lost Larry Doby to the Cleveland Indians mid-season; at the end of the season Newark was so far inferior to New York that the league awarded the championship to New York
World champions
Year Lg Champion Games Lg Runner-up Ref
1942 NAL Kansas City Monarchs 4–0 NNL2 Washington Homestead Grays [2]:398–99
1943 NNL2 Washington Homestead Grays 4–3–1 NAL Birmingham Black Barons [2]:410–11
1944 NNL2 Washington Homestead Grays 4–1 NAL Birmingham Black Barons [2]:418–19
1945 NAL Cleveland Buckeyes 4–0 NNL2 Washington Homestead Grays [2]:426
1946 NNL2 Newark Eagles 4–3 NAL Kansas City Monarchs [2]:438–40
1947 NNL2 New York Cubans 4–1–1 NAL Cleveland Buckeyes [2]:449–50
1948 NNL2 Washington Homestead Grays 4–1 NAL Birmingham Black Barons [2]:459

Post-1948: Integration and inevitable extinction[edit]

By 1949, enough black talent had integrated into the white leagues (both major and minor) that the Negro leagues themselves had become a minor league circuit. With the demise of the NNL, only the NAL remained as a top-tier league for black players. If the purpose of the Negro leagues was to end segregation, then in 1947 (with Jackie Robinson's MLB debut) they became a success and their mission was complete. With an infrastructure still in place and a viable audience for a short period of time, there was still money to be made for a few more years before total demise. Therefore, the following teams are listed for posterity; the real black championship contest was now considered to be the annual East–West Game.

Regional and league championships by club[edit]

Below are the regional and league championships by club. During the formative years until about 1891, it was usually up to an individual team (or newspaper writer) to declare themselves the black champion and see if anyone challenged them; these are listed in the chart as "Declared" champions. Later, up until the end of the Great Depression, there were periods when press coverage and fan interest waned to the point that some seasons a champion was not determined; in these years a champion was retroactively determined by historical research as to which team probably had the most successful season and these are listed in the chart as "Unofficial" champions. Where a champion was determined via a traditional play-off, it is listed in the chart as an "Earned" champion. Only the seasons prior to integration are considered for this table; teams who continued after 1948 are represented by a "+".

Teams with multiple championships (1867–1948)
Championships Earned Declared (β) Unofficial (§) Team Years played Championship seasons
14 6 5 3 Chicago American Giants* 1910–48+ 1910–15, 1917–18, 1920–22, 1926–27, 1932
10 10 - - Kansas City Monarchs 1920–48+ 1923–25, 1929, 1939–42, 1946
10 10 - - Homestead Grays c. 1912–48+ 1930, 1937–38, 1940–45, 1948
6 4 - 2 Bacharach Giants 1916–29 1919, 1921–22, 1926–28
6 5 - 1 Hilldale Club 1916–32 1920–21, 1923–25, 1931
5 3 2 - Philadelphia Giants 1902–16 1904–06, 1908–09
4 - 3 1 New York Lincoln Giants 1911–30 1912–13, 1917–18
4 2 2 - Cuban X-Giants 1897–1907 1897, 1899–1900, 1903
3 3 - - St. Louis Stars 1906–31 1928, 1930–31
3 3 - - Pittsburgh Crawfords 1931–40 1933, 1935–36
3 3 - - Birmingham Black Barons 1920–48+ 1943–44, 1948
2 2 - - New York Gorhams 1886–92 1887, 1889
2 1 1 - Cuban Giants 1885–c. 1915 1888, 1900
2 - 2 - Chicago Unions* 1887–1900 1899–1900
2 1 1 - Chicago Columbia Giants* 1899–1900 1899–1900
2 - 2 - Chicago Leland Giants* 1901–09 1908–09
2 - - 2 Cuban Stars of Havana 1906–32 1910–11
2 2 - - Cleveland Buckeyes 1942–48+ 1945, 1947

* — The Chicago American Giants split from the Leland Giants who themselves were the result of a merge between the Chicago Unions and the Chicago Columbia Giants. Excluding co-championships of the Columbia Giants and Unions in 1899 and 1900, this group of related teams can claim a total of 18 championships (7 earned, 8 declared, 3 unofficial).

Teams with a single championship (1867–1948)

East–West All-Star game[edit]

Major League Baseball began the tradition of an "All-Star" exhibition game between the stars of the American League and National League in 1933. Encouraged by the success of the white game, Gus Greenlee organized a black All-Star game at the end of the 1933 season. This game was to feature the top talent from the western region against the top eastern region talent, hence the name "East–West Game". In the years a World Series was not held, the East–West Game was a surrogate championship game – replete with the media hype and sold-out attendance.

Year Gm Winner Score Loser Year Gm Winner Score Loser
1933 West 11–7 East 1947 2 West 8–2 East
1934 East 1–0 West 1948 1 West 3–0 East
1935 West 11–8 East 1948 2 East 6–1 West
1936 East 10–2 West 1949 West 4–0 East
1937 East 7–2 West 1950 West 5–3 East
1938 West 5–4 East 1951 East 3–1 West
1939 1 West 4–2 East 1952 West 7–3 East
1939 2 East 10–2 West 1953 West 5–1 East
1940 East 11–0 West 1954 West 8–4 East
1941 East 8–3 West 1955 West 2–0 East
1942 1 East 5–2 West 1956 East 11–5 West
1942 2 East 9–2 West 1957 West 8–5 East
1943 West 2–1 East 1958 East 6–5 West
1944 West 7–4 East 1959 West 8–7 East
1945 West 9–6 East 1960 West 8–5 East
1946 1 East 6–3 West 1961 West 7–1 East
1946 2 West 4–1 East 1962 West 5–2 East
1947 1 West 5–2 East TOT 35 WEST 22–13 EAST

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j ""Colored Championship" Series (1867-1899)" (pdf). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Holway, John (2001). The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues: The Other Half of Baseball History. Fern Park, Florida: Hastings House Publishers. ISBN 0-8038-2007-0.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t ""Colored Championship" Series (1900-1919)" (pdf). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b "1910 Season". Negro leagues database (Seamheads.com). Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  5. ^ a b "1911 Season". Negro leagues database (Seamheads.com). Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  6. ^ a b "1912 Season". Negro leagues database (Seamheads.com). Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  7. ^ a b "1913 Season". Negro leagues database (Seamheads.com). Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  8. ^ a b "1914 Season". Negro leagues database (Seamheads.com). Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  9. ^ a b "1916 Season". Negro leagues database (Seamheads.com). Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  10. ^ a b "1917 Season". Negro leagues database (Seamheads.com). Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  11. ^ a b "1918 Season". Negro leagues database (Seamheads.com). Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  12. ^ "1919 Season". Negro leagues database (Seamheads.com). Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g ""Colored Championship" Series (1920-1931)" (pdf). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  14. ^ a b c d e ""Play-Off Championship" Series (1925-1929)" (pdf). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i ""Play-Off Championship" Series (1930-1939)" (pdf). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j ""Play-Off Championship" Series (1940-1955)" (pdf). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Retrieved 15 March 2014.

External links[edit]