The Negro Leagues
Courtesy of Library of Congress.
Before the organization of the Negro Leagues—and long before the desegregation of Major League baseball—African Americans who wished to take part in this most American of pastimes took part in the game in any way and any place they could. The Maine Base Ball Club was the official club of the famous (and famously doomed) battleship. The photograph seen here was taken following the team's victory over the sluggers of the USS Marblehead in the Navy championship. Willie Lambert, seen corner right, was the Maine club's starting pitcher. All but one of the players was killed when the USS Maine exploded on 15 February 1898.