The West Coast’s reputation as socially progressive was a factor even in sports. Amy Essington, a history instructor at Cal State, Fullerton, tells the story of how the Pacific Coast League, a popular minor league before the majors’ westward expansion, became one of the first leagues in any sport to integrate throughout. If it appeared ahead of the times, the PCL was not necessarily a model of open hiring, signing African Americans who team owners claimed were native Americans between 1900 and 1930, along with Hawaiians and Asians. However achieved, the Pacific Coast League was a diversity leader.
Here’s an excerpt from The Integration of the Pacific Coast League:
“After the first team of the Pacific Coast League integrated, it took only five seasons for the remaining seven teams to add players of color to their rosters. The PCL integrated at a faster pace than the Major Leagues, which did not integrate all sixteen of its teams until 1959. By August 1950, in their third season of integration, 60 percent of the PCL teams had signed at least one player of color, whereas the Major League, in its fourth year of integration, had players of color on 25 percent of their 16 teams. In 1951 the PCL teams fielded more black players than any other Minor League. The Pacific Coast League was the first to integrate all its teams. During the 1950, 1951, and 1952 seasons the Sacramento Solons, the San Francisco Seals, the Hollywood Stars, and the Seattle Raniers each added players of color to their rosters. The integration of all eight PCL teams in just five years shows that the process had not only gained momentum but, by reaching all of the teams, become part of a social movement for change in the West.”