Breaking the Color Barrier in Major League Baseball

Selected Objects

Featured Media

Baseball History and Music Part I

Program information

In celebration of the exhibition Breaking the Color Barrier in Major League Baseball and the Museum's renowned permanent baseball card collection, Spectrum organized a panel discussion about baseball history.

The panel, moderated by Spectrum Co-chair, Christopher Gorman, featured William C. Rhoden, sports columnist for The New York Times and author of Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete; Sharon Robinson, author and daughter of Brooklyn Dodgers pioneer Jackie Robinson; Dale Murphy, retired two-time National League MVP; and Sean Kirst, columnist for the Syracuse Post-Standard and author of The Ashes of Lou Gehrig and Other Baseball Essays. Opening remarks were made by Associate Director for Collections and Exhibitions, MMA, Carrie Rebora Barratt.

Spectrum is an initiative organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art to provide fresh perspectives on the Met's collections and special exhibitions. Spectrum events offer the chance to interact with contemporary artists, to discuss art, music, video, and new media, and to socialize with other Museum fans.

Spectrum Co-chairs: Morgan Holzer and Christopher Gorman
Director: Christopher Noey
Technical Director: Paul Caro
Camera Operators: Jessica Glass, Travis Kray, Thomas Shomaker
Sound: Chris Greco
Editor: Corinne Colgan

Breaking the Color Barrier in Major League Baseball

January 18–June 17, 2012

In October 1945 Wesley Branch Rickey (1881–1965), general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Jack Roosevelt Robinson (1919–1972) from the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs to the Dodgers organization, thus breaking the color barrier that had existed in professional baseball since 1889. On April 15, 1947, Robinson took the field for the first time as a Brooklyn Dodger, earning the title "Rookie of the Year" in the National League at the end of the season with twelve homers, twenty-nine steals, and a .297 batting average. Shortly after Robinson's debut, Larry Doby was signed by the Cleveland Indians, who then brought over the Negro League's star pitcher, Satchel Paige, to join Doby the following year. With these developments, baseball's long-entrenched segregation began, slowly, to crumble; it took another twelve years for the Boston Red Sox—the last team to integrate—to hire Elijah "Pumpsie" Green, three years after Robinson retired from the game.

The selection of baseball cards illustrating some of the earliest and most illustrious players who moved from the Negro Leagues into the Majors is taken from the Jefferson R. Burdick Collection. The more than thirty thousand baseball cards collected by Burdick date from 1887 to 1959 and represent the most comprehensive collection outside of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Image: Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers, from Baseball's Greatest Stars (R401-1), no. 79. Leaf Gum, Co., Chicago, IL, 1948–1949. Commercial Chromolithograph, 2 7/8 x 2 3/8 in. (7.3 x 6 cm). The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick. Burdick 326, R401-1.30