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60 Years Before Jackie Robinson, He Was the First African American to Play Pro Baseball

Moses Fleetwood Walker, first Black person to play baseball

In 1947, Jackie Robinson made sports history as the first African American baseball player in the National League. His legacy lives on now as Major League Baseball continues to commemorate him. However, Jackie was not the first Black person to play pro baseball. In fact, the first African American professional baseball player was named Moses Fleetwood Walker. And many will be surprised to learn that he played professionally 60 years before Robinson.

Moses “Fleet” Fleetwood Walker played catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association back in 1884. In this season, Toledo actually competed with the National League. In his lifetime, Walker ‘was born during a turbulent time when slavery was still a fixture in American society.’ In an article by theundefeated.com, it’s stated that Walker followed ‘a distinguished baseball career that once earned him the princely sum of $2,000 for six months of work…purchased a hotel and a movie theater, and he also published a weekly newspaper.’

In his young life, Walker fought for justice, and for his own freedom as he was even ‘acquitted on a second-degree murder charge in Syracuse, New York when an all-white jury ruled that he stabbed a white man in self-defense.’ As for his baseball game, Walker was recorded to ‘hit an impressive .263 in 42 games, surpassing the league batting average by 23 points…often catching barehanded and playing without a chest protector.’