Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Look at Negro League Baseball per Wikipedia

I enjoy baseball because of its rich tradition and history.  And much like you always see something you never saw before when you go to a ballgame I seem to always discover something different in the facts about some facet of baseball.  Like most historians, I am always in search of accuracy about something rather than the embellished, suitable standard for what has been accepted over the years.

The Negro American League of 1951 is considered the last major league season and the last professional club, the Indianapolis Clowns, operated amusingly rather than competitively from the mid-1960s into the 1980s.  No doubt consisting of players past their prime because when the integration of the major leagues began in 1947 these players had either missed out for one reason or another.

Let's go to the Wayback Machine to review the history of Negro Baseball.

1888 was the last season blacks were permitted in that or any other high minor league.  The first black professional baseball team was formed in 1885 when the Babylon Black Panthers, formed by waiters and porters from the Argyle Hotel in Babylon, New York were spotted by white businessman from Trenton, New Jersey, Walter S. Cook.  Cook renamed them the Cuban Giants so that he could attract more white fans.  Shortly after the Giants' formation, the Jacksonville, Florida newspaper, the Leader, assembled the first Negro league, the Southern League of Base Ballists.

The early "Cuban" teams were all composed of African Americans rather than Cubans:  the purpose was to increase their acceptance with white patrons as Cuba was very friendly terms with the US during those years.

Then President Rutherford B. Hayes signed the Compromise of 1877, and all the legal obstacles were removed from the South's enacting the Jim Crow laws. On July 14, 1887, Cap Anson's Chicago White Stockings were scheduled to play the Newark Giants of the International League, which had Fleet Walker and George Stovey on its roster. After Anson marched his team onto the field, military style as was his custom, he demanded that the blacks not play. Newark capitulated, and later that same day, league owners voted to refuse future contracts to blacks, citing the "hazards" imposed by such athletes.

In 1888, the Middle States League was formed and it admitted two all-black teams to its otherwise all-white league, the Cuban Giants and their arch-rivals, the New York Gorhams.  Despite the animosity between the two clubs, they managed to form a traveling team, the Colored  All-Americans.  This enabled them to make money barnstorming while fulfilling their league obligations.  In 1890, the Giants returned to their independent, barnstorming identity, and by 1892, they were the only black team in the East still in operation on a full-time basis.

After a stint with the Gorhams, Bud Fowler caught on with a team out of Findlay, Ohio. While playing in Adrian, Michigan, Fowler was persuaded by two white local businessmen, L.W. Hoch and Rolla Taylor to help them start a team financed by the Page Woven Wire Fence Company, the Page Fence Giants.  The Page Fence Giants went on to become a powerhouse team that had no home field.  Barnstorming through the Midwest, they would play all comers.  Their success became the prototype for black baseball for years to come.  

After the 1898 season, the Page Fence Giants were forced to fold because of finances. Alvin H. Garrett, a black businessman in Chicago, and John W. Patterson, the left fielder for the Page Fence Giants, reformed the team under the name of the Columbia Giants.  In 1901, the Giants folded due to a lack of somewhere to play. Frank Leland bought the Giants in 1905 and merged it with his Unions (despite the fact that not a single Giant player ended up on the roster) and named the team, the Leland Giants.