Over the last couple of days we’ve gotten our annual reminder of just how historically significant it was for Jackie Robinson to break baseball’s color barrier in 1947. What is often overlooked at these times is just how significant the breaking of the color barrier — or, in the case of some teams, the decision to cling to segregationist policies — was for competitive purposes.
Today Jay Jaffe has a good article about that over at Fangraphs. The big takeaway: the Dodgers, Giants and Braves, all of whom integrated swiftly, came to dominate the National League over the next two decades. In turn, the National League came to dominate all of baseball.
Jaffe goes into pretty good detail on all of this. We all know about Hall of Famers like Robinson and, eventually, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, who were later signed from the Negro Leagues, but Jaffe talks about more minor black stars who helped sustain these clubs in the 1950s and into the 1960s lesser black players who, while perhaps not making a mark in the bigs, made their organizations deeper and more competitive. The story illustrates that it was the commitment to integration, not just the act of integrating, that mattered when it game to the nuts and bolts of baseball.