In 1947 Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier and became a hero for black and white Americans, yet Robinson was a Negro League player before he integrated Major League baseball. Negro League ballplayers had been thrilling black fans since 1920. Among them were the legendary pitchers Smoky Joe Williams, whose fastball seemed to "come off a mountain top," Satchel Paige, the ageless wonder who pitched for five decades, and such hitters as Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard, "the Ruth and Gehrig of the Negro Leagues." Although their games were ignored by white-owned newspapers and radio stations, black ballplayers became folk heroes in cities such as Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington DC, where the teams drew large crowds and became major contributors to the local community life. This memorable narrative, filled with the memories of many surviving Negro League players, pulls the veil off these "invisible men" who were forced into the segregated leagues. What emerges is a glorious chapter in African American history and an often overlooked aspect of our American past.