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Exhibition Baseball Americana

A Game Divided

Although white major leaguers dominated the national headlines and baseball cards, local clubs ruled America’s ball fields—indoors and out. A group of Chicagoans came up with “indoor baseball” and produced a variant that thrives to this day as softball. Meanwhile, minor league baseball teams logged thousands of miles between hundreds of towns. Concurrently, African Americans formed their own teams, and one of the most notable—the Philadelphia Pythian Club, founded by scholar and shortstop Octavius Catto—played against white teams. Organized black baseball reached a significant milestone in 1920, when Rube Foster established the Negro National League. Enthusiastically covered in the black press, it received little attention from white sports fans. “Don’t feel sorry for us,” said Buck O’Neil, a former Negro League star and the first African American to coach in the major leagues. “I feel sorry for your fathers and your mothers, because they didn’t get to see us play.”