The End of the Negro Leagues
First a trickle and then a flood of players signed with Major League Baseball teams. Most signed minor league contracts and many languished, shuttled from one bush league team to another despite their success at that level. But they were in Organized Baseball, that part of the industry organized by the major leagues.
Early in 1946, Rickey signed four more black players, Campanella, Newcombe, John Wright and Roy Partlow, this time with much less fanfare. After the integration of the major leagues in 1947, marked by the appearance of Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers that April, interest in Negro league baseball waned. Black players who were regarded as prospects were signed by major league teams, often without regard for any contracts that might have been signed with Negro league clubs. Negro league owners who complained about this practice were in a no-win situation: they could not protect their own interests without seeming to interfere with the advancement of players to the majors.
Some proposals were floated to bring the Negro leagues into “organized baseball” as developmental leagues for black players, but that was recognized as contrary to the goal of full integration. So the Negro leagues, once among the largest and most prosperous black-owned business ventures, were allowed to fade into oblivion.
The Negro National League folded after the 1948 season when the Grays withdrew to resume barnstorming, the Eagles moved to Houston, Texas, and the New York Black Yankees folded. The Grays folded one year later after losing $30,000 in the barnstorming effort. So the Negro American League was the only “major” Negro League operating in 1949. Within two years it had been reduced to minor league caliber and it played its last game in 1958.
The last All-Star game was held in 1962, and by 1966 the Indianapolis Clowns were the last Negro league team still playing. The Clowns continued to play exhibition games into the 1980s, but as a humorous sideshow rather than a competitive sport,