Wendell Smith Chronology

This chronology is largely focused on Wendell's professional life as it related to baseball journalism and civil rights activism. The chronology also includes the dates of some key social and historical events of the period to provide context.

          March 23, 1914

Born in Detroit


Wish Egan of the Detroit Tigers does not sign Wendell to a contract because of Wendell's race


Graduated from West Virginia State College, began work at the Pittsburgh Courier

          May 14, 1938

First article directly attacking baseball color line published

          Summer 1938

Polls National League managers and players about opinions of baseball integration, finds over 75% approve


Proposes an organization to help black athletes modeled on the NAACP

          April 24 & May 8, 1943

Publicly challenged President Roosevelt to adopt a "Fair Employment Practice Policy" for professional baseball similar to the one instituted in war industries and governmental agencies

          December 3, 1943

Attends joint Major League meetings with Paul Robeson, John Sengstacke, Ira Lewis, and others

          May 6, 1944

Article interviewing black baseball player Willie Wells published where Wells famously stated "Here in Mexico, I am a man."

          December 12, 1944

Article about Commissioner Kenesaw Landis after the Commissioner's death, denounces Landis's record on integration

          April 16, 1945

Arranged the Boston Red Sox tryout for African-American ballplayers (Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe, and Marvin Williams)

          January 14, 1946

Agrees to join the Brooklyn Dodgers' payroll to serve as Jackie Robinson's mentor and arrange for lodging and travel during spring training in Florida. Wendell would travel with Robinson throughout spring training and during the season in Montreal.


Traveled again with Jackie Robinson during parts of spring training and the Brooklyn season.

          October 13, 1947

Applies for membership in the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Rejected on October 14.

          1947 (after baseball season closed)

Joined the white-owned Chicago Herald-American (later known asChicago's American) newspaper, becoming first black columnist at a white newspaper


Accepted by the Chicago Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Covered the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. Jackie Robinson's first autobiography My Own Story published, ghost-written by Wendell.

          January 1961

Instigates campaign to end segregation at spring training sites in Florida

          December 1961

Chicago White Sox purchase Florida hotel to avoid segregation, most other teams desegregate housing by the end of the month


Joins television station WGN and the Chicago Sun-Times

          January 25, 1971

Met in Commissioner Bowie Kuhn's office as member of the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues for the Baseball Hall of Fame. On February 9th, Commissioner Kuhn announced the Committee's decision to honor Satchel Paige in a separate Negro Leagues area of the Hall of Fame. On July 7th and after significant public outrage, Commissioner Kuhn announced that Paige would be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a full member.

          February 8, 1972

Special Committee on the Negro Leagues elects Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard to the Hall of Fame.

          October 1972

Wrote Jackie Robinson's obituary

          November 6, 1972

Wendell Smith passes away after a battle with pancreatic cancer


Wendell Smith selected as the 1994 recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. Wendell's widow Wyonella Smith receives the award on his behalf on July 31, 1994.

          February 5, 1997

The National Baseball Hall of Fame officially announces the Wendell Smith Papers collection, donated by Wyonella Smith the previous year.

          April 12, 2013

The film 42 is released in theaters. The film focused primarily on Jackie Robinson's first two professional years and his relationship with Wendell Smith.