There could be room for everybody

Originally Published: February 28, 2007
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
Sixty years ago, professional baseball was wildly successful. In 1946, so-called "organized baseball" set all-time attendance records in both the major and minor leagues. In the majors -- the American and National Leagues -- 18.5 million fans came through the turnstiles, shattering the previous record (set the season before) by nearly 8 million. The 43 minor leagues, consisting of 316 teams, combined to draw more than 32 million fans.

And, of course, there were also the so-called Negro leagues, the Negro American League and the Negro National League, which had never been more popular ... and yet they were on the verge of collapse. Within just a few years, the surviving "leagues" were merely loose conglomerations of struggling teams that survived, if they survived at all, by barnstorming around the country and playing wherever they could get a game.

Baseball Fans
David Guttenfelder/AP PhotoBaseball in Japan goes way back -- and fans are very passionate about it.
What happened? Jackie Robinson happened, finally. Once Robinson and other players from the Negro leagues were allowed to play in the previously inaccessible major leagues, most black baseball fans shifted their allegiance. And understandably so. They wanted to watch the best players, and finally, nearly all of the best players were in the American and National Leagues.

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