Jackie Robinson is widely known as the first African American baseball player to break the color barrier. Robinson helped pave the way for a lot of black baseball players in the sport. He will always be remembered for changing the game of baseball.
There’s a player that does not get talked about as much as Robinson. His name is Moses Fleetwood Walker, and he’s credited as the first black player to play in Major League Baseball.
The story of Moses Fleetwood Walker
Walker was born in 1856, a time when slavery was still an issue in American society. Though he grew up as a free man, he overcame numerous odds and broke into professional baseball 19 years after the Civil War ended.
He became the first African American to play baseball at Oberlin College and the University of Michigan. Walker’s performance at Michigan allowed him to sign his first professional baseball contract. He signed with the Toledo Blue Stockings, who were a part of the Northwestern League.
When Walker entered into professional baseball, which caused a lot of tension across the league, before he appeared in a game, there was a motion proposed to prohibit all players of color from entering the league. The motion eventually got dropped, and Walker could play in the league.
Walker’s debut as a major league player
The Blue Stockings had a lot of success in the Northwestern League. In 1884, they were transferred to the American Association, which was a major league organization. Walker’s first game came on May 1, 1884, against the Louisville Eclipse. He went 0-for-3 at the plate as the Blue Stockings lost 5-1.
That was a big day, not only for Walker but for the black community. Walker worked hard to get to this point in his career, and he did not let anything or anyone stand in his way. Walker was a catcher and often caught with his bare hands and did not use a chest protector.
He would continue to play for multiple teams throughout his baseball career and also open the door for other black players. In 1939, there was an unofficial ban that fueled by a former player, Cap Anson. That ban kept African Americans out of the Major Leagues for the next six decades. By the early 1890s, there were no African Americans playing baseball.
Creating a movement
Before African Americans were banned from the game of baseball, Walker started a movement for the black community. In a sport where blacks were not a part of, Walker changed that narrative and had success in the sport as well. He was an inspiration for so many to follow after him.
If it weren’t for Walker, there probably wouldn’t have been Jackie Robinson to help carry that movement, and if it weren’t for Walker and Robinson, you wouldn’t see blacks playing the game of baseball today. What they did will never go unnoticed, and it’s because of people like them that the game is integrated now.
With all the suffering and ridicule that they went through, they did it so that future players can be welcomed in the game of baseball.