Nearly 20 years before the Civil Rights Act, the presence of baseball players like Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks on major-league rosters helped accelerate integration in Arizona.
All four of the players who crossed over from the Negro leagues participated in spring training in Arizona in the late 1940s and early 1950s, marking some of the earliest interaction among black and white major-leaguers.
The integration of spring training in Arizona brought the integration of social institutions such as bars and restaurants at a time when society remained largely divided along racial lines. Black and white players worked, socialized and in some cases lived together in Phoenix, Tucson, Scottsdale and Mesa before they did so anywhere else.
Arizona’s Cactus League is celebrating its 70th anniversary in conjunction with Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball’s racial barrier in 1947, and the four pioneering African-American players were inducted into the Cactus League’s Hall of Fame this month.
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