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Negro National League (1920–31)


Negro National League (1920–31)

Negro National League
Sport Baseball
Founded 1920
No. of teams 24
Country United States
Ceased 1931
Most titles

The Negro National League (NNL) was one of the several Negro leagues which were established during the period in the United States in which organized baseball was segregated.


  • League history 1
    • Founding 1.1
    • Competition 1.2
    • Difficulties and demise 1.3
    • Legacy 1.4
  • Negro National League franchises 2
    • Member timeline 2.1
  • League champions 3
    • Pennant winners 3.1
    • League play-offs 3.2
    • Colored World Series 3.3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5

League history


Led by Rube Foster, owner and manager of the Chicago American Giants, the NNL was established on February 13, 1920 by a coalition of team owners at a meeting in a Kansas City YMCA.[1] The new league was the first African-American baseball circuit to achieve stability and last more than one season. At first the league operated mainly in midwestern cities, ranging from Kansas City in the west to Pittsburgh in the east; in 1924 it expanded into the south, adding franchises in Birmingham and Memphis.


The two most important east coast clubs, the Oscar Charleston, and Reuben Currie in 1924. The war between the two leagues came to an end in 1924, when they agreed to respect each other's contracts and arranged for the Colored World Series between their champions.

Difficulties and demise

The NNL survived controversies over umpiring, scheduling, and what some perceived as league president Rube Foster's disproportionate influence and favoritism toward his own team. It also outlasted Foster's decline into mental illness in 1926, and its eastern rival, the ECL, which folded in early 1928. The NNL finally fell apart in 1931 under the economic stress of the Great Depression.


The Negro American League, founded in 1937 and including several of the same teams that played in the original Negro National League, would eventually carry on as the western circuit of black baseball. A separate Negro National League was organized in 1933, but eventually became concentrated on the east coast. To distinguish between the two unrelated leagues, they are usually referred to as the first Negro National League (or NNL I) and the second Negro National League (or NNL II).

Negro National League franchises

Annual final standings: 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931

Member timeline

  • 1920: Formation of NNL consisting of 8 teams — Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis ABCs, St. Louis Giants, Cuban Stars, Dayton Marcos and Chicago Giants.
  • 1921: Dropped Dayton Marcos; Added Columbus Buckeyes.
  • 1922: Dropped Columbus Buckeyes, Chicago Giants, St. Louis Giants; Added Cleveland Tate Stars, Pittsburgh Keystones, St. Louis Stars.
  • 1923: Dropped Cleveland Tate Stars (mid-season), Pittsburgh Keystones; Added Toledo Tigers (mid-season), Milwaukee Bears.
  • 1924: Dropped Toledo Tigers, Milwaukee Bears, Indianapolis ABCs (mid-season); Added Cleveland Browns, Birmingham Black Barons, Memphis Red Sox (mid-season).
  • 1925: Dropped Cleveland Browns; Re-added Indianapolis ABCs.
  • 1926: Dropped Memphis Red Sox, Birmingham Black Barons; Added Cleveland Elites, re-added Dayton Marcos.
  • 1927: Dropped Dayton Marcos, Indianapolis ABCs; Re-added Birmingham Black Barons, Memphis Red Sox.
  • 1929: Dropped Cleveland Tigers.
  • 1930: Added Nashville Elite Giants.
  • 1931: Dropped Memphis Red Sox, Birmingham Black Barons, Cuban Stars; Added Louisville White Sox, (new) Indianapolis ABCs. League fell apart before season end.

League champions

Pennant winners

From 1920 through 1924, the team in first place at the end of the season was declared the Pennant winner. Due to the unorthodox nature of the schedule (and little incentive to enforce it), some teams frequently played many more games than others did in any given season. This led to some disputed championships and two teams claiming the title. Generally, the team with the best winning percentage (with some minimum number of games played) was awarded the Pennant, but other times it was the team with the most victories. The "games behind" method of recording standings was uncommon in most black leagues.

  • 1920 – Chicago American Giants
  • 1921 – Chicago American Giants
  • 1922 – Chicago American Giants
  • 1923 – Kansas City Monarchs
  • 1924 – Kansas City Monarchs‡
  • 1925 – Kansas City Monarchs†‡
  • 1926 – Chicago American Giants†‡
  • 1927 – Chicago American Giants†‡
  • 1928 – St. Louis Stars†
  • 1929 – Kansas City Monarchs†
  • 1930 – St. Louis Stars†
  • 1931 – St. Louis Stars† (season did not finish; Stars had best record among league members and were declared the champions,[2] though non-member Pittsburgh Crawfords disputed title)

† – Pennant was decided via a split-season schedule with the winner of the first half of the season playing the winner of the second half of the season, unless one team won both halves.
‡ – Pennant winner went on to play in the Colored World Series.

League play-offs

From 1925 through 1931, the NNL split the season into two halves. The winner of the first half played the winner of the second half for the league Pennant. As mentioned above, disputes also occurred in the split season finishes.

  • 1925 – Kansas City Monarchs (first half champions) beat St. Louis Stars (second half champions), 5 games to 3 games
  • 1926 – Chicago American Giants (2nd half) beat Kansas City Monarchs (1st half), 5 games to 4 games
  • 1927 – Chicago American Giants (1st half) beat Birmingham Black Barons (2nd half), 4 games to 0 games
  • 1928 – St. Louis Stars (1st half) beat Chicago American Giants (2nd half), 5 games to 4 games
  • 1929 – Kansas City Monarchs (both first and second half champions)[3]
  • 1930 – St. Louis Stars (1st half) beat Detroit Stars (2nd half), 4 games to 3 games
  • 1931 – St. Louis Stars (both first and second half champions)[4]

Colored World Series

For the duration of the league, a Colored World Series took place four times, from 1924 through 1927. The NNL Pennant winner met the champion of the rival Eastern Colored League. Three out of the four years, the Negro National League team (below in bold) prevailed.

  • 1924Kansas City Monarchs beat Hilldale Club, 5 games to 4 games (1 tie)
  • 1925 – Hilldale Club beat Kansas City Monarchs, 5 games to 1 game
  • 1926Chicago American Giants beat Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, 5 games to 4 games (2 ties)
  • 1927Chicago American Giants beat Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, 5 games to 3 games (1 tie)


  1. ^ Bolton, Todd. "History of the Negro Major Leagues". Negro League Baseball Players Association. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Play-Off Championship" Series""" (pdf). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Play-Off Championship" Series""" (pdf). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 


  • Holway, John B. (2001), The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues: The Other Half of Baseball History, Fern Park, FL: Hastings House,  
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