Here is the first in-depth account of the birth of black baseball and its dramatic passage from grass-roots venture to commercial enterprise. In the late nineteenth century resourceful black businessmen founded ball teams that became the Negro Leagues. Racial bias aside, they faced vast odds, from the need to court white sponsors to negotiating ball parks. With no blacks in cities, they barnstormed small towns to attract fans, employing all manner of gimmickry to rouse attention. Drawing on major newspapers and obscure African-American journals, the author explores the diverse forces that shaped minority baseball. He looks unflinchingly at prejudice in amateur and pro circles and constant inadequate press coverage. He assesses the impact of urbanization, migration, and the rise of northern ghettoes, and he applauds those bold innovators who forged black baseball into a parallel club that appealed to whites yet nurtured a uniquely African American playing style. This was black baseball's finest hour: at once a source of great ethnic pride and a hard-won pathway for integration into the mainstream.