The following is an excerpt from my book, “Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”:
“Jackie Robinson broke through the color line in 1947 and began his successful Major League playing career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. With the line erased by Robinson and as more African Americans began playing in the Major Leagues, the eventual future end of Negro League baseball became obvious by the early 1950s. Instead of attending Negro League games, more and black baseball fans began following former Negro League players in the Major Leagues. By the middle of the decade talented young African American players were bypassing the Negro Leagues and directly signing with Major League teams. The death of Negro League baseball came by the early 1960s due to economic problems caused by a declining fan base and a decreasing level of talent.”
Born on November 30, 1939 in Cleveland, Tennessee; Ernest Westfield was the starting pitcher for the East squad in the last Negro League Baseball East-West All Star Game. The contest was held on August 21, 1960 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, the same as where the first was played in 1933.
A 6’3”, 160 pound right-handed pitcher, Westfield spent the 1958 season in the Chicago Cubs’ minor league system. The next year he signed with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League (NAL). In spite of the league’s decline, it was still an honor to be chosen to participate in the All Star Game. Ike Brown, the West squad’s shortstop, went on to play for the Detroit Tigers in 1969 and was the last player from the Negro Leagues signed by a Major League team.
Westfield gave up three runs in the first three innings and the West squad won the game 8 – 4.
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