Thursday, March 8, 2012

U.S. History and Baseball

1896:  In the famous Plessy vs. Furgeson case the United States Supreme Court upholds Louisiana's law requiring "separate but equal" public facilities for blacks.  The decision firmly establishes the doctrine of racial segregation throughout the South and much of the nation.

1920- Andrew "Rube" Foster, renowned pitcher and owner of the Chicago Americans, calls Midwestern team owners to Kansas City.  The result of the meeting is the formation of the Negro National League.  Teams onboard:  Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Dayton Marcos, Detroit Stars, Indianapolis ABCs, Kansas City Monarchs and Cuban Stars.

1920-  The Negro Southern League begins play in the South.  League cities include:  Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham, Memphis, New Orleans and Chattanooga.

1923- Ed Bolden (owner of the Hilldale Club) and Nat Strong (owner of Brooklyn Royal Giants owner) organize the Eastern Colored League.  The six-team league consists of:  Brooklyn, Hilldale, Bacharach Giants, Lincoln Giants, Baltimore Black Sox and Cuban Stars (East).

1928- The Eastern Colored league disbands midseason.

1929-  The stock market crash and onset of the Great Depression places financial pressure on all of America, including Negro League baseball.

1930- The Kansas City Monarchs, among the more successful and prestigious clubs in black baseball withdraws from the Negro National League and returns to independent play.

1932- Just as Negro league baseball seemed to be at its lowest point along came Cumberland Posey and his Homestead Grays.  Posey got Charlie Walker, John Roesnick, George Rossiter, John Drew, Lloyd Thompson and L.R. Williams together and founded the East-West League in January.

Across town from Posey, Gus Greenlee, a reputed gangster and numbers runner, had just purchased the Pittsburgh Crawfords.  Greenlee's main interest in baseball was to use it as a way to launder money from his numbers games.  But after learning of Posey's money-making machine in Homestead, he became obsessed with the sport and his Crawfords.  Greenlee's ability to turn the Crawfords into a stellar club, build a ballpark, and reform the Negro National League rested on the revenue he generated from a system of organized gambling popularly called the numbers game.  The "numbers" derived from similar gambling games known by different names across diverse locales, including European peasant lotteries, "la bolita" in the Caribbean, and "policy" in New Orleans.  In this poor persons lottery, people could bet as little as a penny on a three-digit number based on daily stock transactions or the outcomes of horse races.   

 On August 6, 1931,  Satchel Paige made his first appearance as a Crawford.  With Paige on his team, Greenlee took a huge risk by investing $100,000 in a new ballpark to be called Greenlee Field.  (Art Rooney, Gus Greenlee's political ally, had his fledgling football team practice and play exhibitions there in 1933, its first season in the National Football League.) On opening day, April 30, 1932, the pitcher-catcher battery was made up of the two most marketable icons in black baseball:  Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.

(thanks to wikipedia and negro league

Kevin J. Marquez