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Negro League Baseball

Negro League Baseball Timeline »

Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords
The Homestead Grays (upper photo courtesy of Mrs. Cumberland Posey and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) began as a team of black steelworkers and won nine consecutive league pennants from 1937-45. The Pittsburgh Crawfords (lower photo courtesy of National Baseball Library, Copperstown, N.Y.) were one of the most formidable teams of the mid-1930s.

Throughout the long history of baseball in America, the Pirates organization and its employees have formed powerful partnerships for positive change in the black baseball world that stretched from the Pacific to the Caribbean.

Pittsburgh was headquarters for the Negro National League and the only city in the country with two Black Professional Teams, the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords.

Located first in a small steel town outside of Pittsburgh, the Grays dominated the Eastern baseball scene. They were led by future Hall of Famers Josh Gibson (catcher), "Cool" Papa Bell (outfield), Judy Johnson (third base), Buck Leonard (first base) and Cuban great Martin Dihigo (second base, pitcher, outfielder). Their ace pitcher was "Smokey" Joe Williams, who once struck out 27 batters in a 12-inning game.

During World War II, the Grays played their home games at both Forbes Field (Pittsburgh) and Griffith Stadium (Washington, D.C.) when the white Major League clubs were on the road. The Grays traditionally outdrew their white counterparts, the cellar-dwelling Washington Senators.

Originally, the Pittsburgh Crawfords team was composed of amateurs from the sandlots of the city's Hill district. They won the 1935 Negro National League championship with five future Hall of Famers: James "Cool Papa" Bell, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, and the legendary Satchel Paige.

Pittsburgh fielded an array of stars unrivaled in the city's rich sporting past.