African Americans have been playing baseball in Omaha for more than 150 years. For more than a decade, there was a segregated amateur league in the city. This is a history of the Omaha Colored Baseball League.
Baseball became popular in Omaha after World War I ended, and African Americans were excited to watch and play. The Omaha Federals were a semi-professional Black baseball team in Omaha in the early 1920s, and the Omaha Black Bisons were a rumored pro team rumored to start in the city in 1925. The Omaha Rockets were a touring professional team that came along later. In the meantime, the city’s amateur baseball leagues were segregated and African American players wanted to play.
From 1922 to 1936, the Omaha Colored Baseball League was a segregated amateur league with at least six teams playing mostly in North Omaha, with at least two teams located in south Omaha. Sponsored by the Colored Commercial Club starting in 1926, the League began with a meeting between organizers and Johnny Dennison, who was the head of the Omaha Municipal Baseball Association. 150 players attended, official appointments were made, and teams were formed. The first teams were the Colored Commercial Club Juniors, the Elks, the Cudahy Rex, the Ramblers, the Smith Giants, and the Red Sox (see the end of this article for a longer list of all the teams).
For several seasons, there was an opening parade on North 24th Street for the teams. The teams played in a variety of places around the city, including Elmwood Park, Miller Park, Riverview Park, and at South 32nd and Dewey Street. According to newspaper accounts, thousands of people showed up to watch the games weekly over the years. The officials of the League included Robert Simmons, D.H. Oliver, and Isaac Foster, treasurer, and Dr. D.W. Gooden. Robert Simmons was the perennial organizer of the League, pulling together teams, managing schedules, and otherwise making it happen.
Playing with corporate sponsors including Storz Brewery, Cudahy Packing Company, and the Union Pacific Railroad, the teams occasionally played outside their league against white teams. Some of the teams also traveled across Nebraska and Iowa to play other white teams. The large companies hosted whites-only teams and a Black-only team, too.
In 1929, the Union Pacific Gold Coast team (shown above) won the league. The team members were all porters who worked out of the Union Station downtown, and included Doc Manager, Soup Lawson, Wan Young, and “Little Soup” Lawson.
Teams in the Omaha Colored Baseball League varied over the years. They included…
- Colored Commercial Club Juniors
- Smith Giants
- Mason and Curry Athletics
- Cudahy Rex / Cudahy Clix
- Union Pacific Gold Coasts
- South Omaha Stars
- Stewart Red Sox / Cultural Red Sox
- Omaha Cubs
- B.B.G. (Baseballers But Gentlemen)
- B.D.G. (Broken Down Giants)
- Urban League
After the final games were played in 1936, the Cudahy Rex team continued on, eventually integrating and even becoming a white-only team by the 1960s.
In 1927, Omaha Colored Baseball League organizer Robert Simmons began working to launch a professional Black baseball team in Omaha. At that point, the Negro National League had teams in Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Birmingham, and the Cuban Stars of Havana, Cuba.
While a professional Black baseball team never formed in Omaha, the legacy of this early amateur league would inspire another generation later to pursue baseball.
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