Baseball’s “Segregation Era” — Blackballed Stars

“Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid anti-black laws. It was a way of life. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were relegated to the status of second class citizens. Jim Crow represented the legitimization of anti-black racism.”

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NL 42 negro league stamp

In 2007, the publication of, Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, the seminal work on the life of Jackie Robinson, by the late Jules Tygiel, inspired books and articles about the Segregation Era in baseball and the Negro Leagues, which started in 1920:

“By the end of World War I black baseball had become, perhaps, the number one entertainment attraction for urban black populations throughout the country. It was at that time that Andrew “Rube” Foster, owner of the Chicago American Giants and black baseball’s most influential personality, determined that the time had arrived for a truly organized and stable Negro league. Under Foster’s leadership in 1920 the Negro National League was born in Kansas City, fielding eight teams: Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Cuban Stars, Dayton Marcos, Detroit Stars, Indianapolis ABCs, Kansas City Monarchs and St. Louis Giants.” [http://www.negroleaguebaseball.com/history101.html]

But prior to 1920 there is a rich history of black baseball players, who were banned from playing with whites from 1877-Mid-1960s, most infamously by the Jim Crow Laws.

The emergence of all-black teams in America ran parallel to that of white teams; teams represented towns, factories and other business enterprises, and many teams sprang from social clubs.

Although the black teams did not participate in a regularized playoff system, or a World Series, there were several examples of events that were intended to determine which team was the best black baseball team in America.

The first of these Championship events took place three years after the Emancipation Proclamation, in 1866, when the visiting Bachelor Baseball Club of Albany, New York established its claim as the best black baseball team in America by thumping the two Philadelphia home teams: the hosting Philadelphia Pythian team 70-15 and the Philadelphia Excelsior team 44-28. [Imagine the ERAs for those pitchers!]

The following year saw black baseball catch on in urban areas, especially Washington, D.C. and Brooklyn, New York.  In October 1867 a huge crowd attended an event billed as “the colored championship of the United States.”

At the Satellite Grounds in Williamsburg, N.Y. the Philadelphia Excelsior team was holding off a fierce rally by the Brooklyn Unique with the score 42-37 in the 7th inning, when the game was called due to darkness.

Despite the Philadelphia Excelsior team’s claim to be “the colored champions of the United States,” two other prominent teams were not impressed and settled, to their satisfaction, the question of who was the best black team in the country, when the Philadelphia Pythian team clobbered their rival, the Brooklyn Monitor team, in a low-scoring game, 27-9 at Columbia Park in Philadelphia.

Just four years later, the “champions” of 1867, the Philadelphia Pythian team, “dissolved after the brutal assassination of their shortstop and captain Octavius Catto during an October 10 election riot.” [1]

In 1870, the Mutual of Washington team, led by the famous orator Frederick Douglass’s son, Charles, ran roughshod over seven teams in Western New York state by a combined total of 345-78 and that qualified the team to play for “the championship of the United States” against the Fearless of Utica [N.Y.] team, which had defeated the Heavy Hitters of Canojarie [N.Y.] team the previous year for the “title” and issued a challenge to “any colored club who wishes to dispute their claim to the championship.”

After playing five complete innings in a chilling drizzle, the game was called due to the weather conditions with the Mutual of Washington team leading the home-standing Utica club 18-10.

In September 1882 at the Polo Grounds in New York City, where the Major League New York Giants played until 1957, the Philadelphia Orion laid claim to the “colored championship,” crushing the West End Hotel team of Long Beach, N. J. 20-2 before a crowd of 500 fans.

The West End Hotel team represented a practice of hotels sponsoring black baseball teams to entertain their guests.  In 1885, a team sponsored by the Argyle Hotel of Babylon, N.Y., defeated the champion Orions 6-4.

Significantly, the Argyle Hotel team, with the financial backing of capitalist Walter Cook of Trenton, N.J., were renamed the “Cuban Giants”—a team that became famous in the history of black baseball.

The following year, 1886, Cook spent his money signing the cream of the crop of black players for his Cuban Giants, including:  Clarence Williams, Bill Whyte and star pitcher, George Hovey.  Their dominance resulted in “a grand record made against National League and leading college teams.” [2]

In 1920, after a stellar pitching career in black baseball, Andrew “Rube” Foster, described by Tygiel in his book, Time Past, as “perhaps the outstanding pitcher in all of baseball,” founded the Negro National League, seeking to ‘keep colored baseball from control of the whites.” [3]

Thus, the first “official league” Black World Series was played in 1924.

Game Ten

Monday, October 20 1924 at Schorling’s Park in Chicago

Attendance: 1,549

Team

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Hilldale

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

Kansas City

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

5

6

0

W: José Méndez (2-0)  L: Scrip Lee (0-2)
HRs: none
Umpires: Costello, Goeckel, Moore, and Conlin

The teams met in the final game before a small crowd, attributed to inclement weather in Chicago that day. Although still weak from surgery before the series and advised by a doctor not to exert himself, Méndez had already pitched 10 innings of relief in the first nine games, but decided to start the final game himself. Foster agreed with the strategy, and Game Ten became part of Méndez’s legend.

Méndez matched Hilldale starter Scrip Lee zero for zero for seven full innings until Lee tired in the bottom of the eighth. Lee changed from his normal submarine delivery to an overhand style in that inning, and the Monarchs scored five runs off of him, including one by Méndez himself. When Hilldale went out in the ninth, the Monarchs had won the first Colored World Series

[http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/1924_Negro_World_Series#Game_Ten]

Yet, even with the establishment of the Negro National League, the majority of games played by black teams were outside the “League” rubric.

As Tygiel observed in Time Past:

“..even during the halcyon days official contests never constituted more than perhaps a third of the games played.  Some of the strongest black teams and best players performed outside the league structure.

Top teams often boasted names like the Homestead Grays, Bachrach Giants, or the Hilldale Club, reflecting affiliations not to major cities but to people and smaller communities.  The most popular attractions often involved exhibitions against white semiprofessional and professional teams.

In all of these many guises and varieties, black baseball constituted a vital element of African-American culture, while dramatizing the contradictions and challenges of survival in a world dominated by whites.” [4]

 

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[*] “Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid anti-black laws. It was a way of life. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were relegated to the status of second class citizens. Jim Crow represented the legitimization of anti-black racism.”

[http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm]

[1] “May the Best Man Win,” Todd Peterson, The Baseball Research Journal, Vol. 42, Spring 2013, No. 1, p. 8.

[2] “May the Best Man Win,” Todd Peterson, The Baseball Research Journal, Vol. 42, Spring 2013, No. 1, p. 9.

Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, Jules Tygiel

http://www.amazon.com/Baseballs-Great-Experiment-Jackie-Robinson/dp/0195339282/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384355381&sr=1-1&keywords=jules+tygiel+baseball%27s+great+experiment+jackie+robinson+and+his+legacy+oxford+university+press+2008

[3] Time Past, Jules Tygiel, Oxford, 2000, p. 116.

[4] Time Past, Jules Tygiel, Oxford, 2000, pp. 117-18.

 

While it would be quite a stretch to say that professional baseball in the North was integrated between the end of the Civil War and 1890, quite a number of African-Americans played alongside white athletes on minor league and major league teams during the period. Although the original National Association of Base Ball Players, formed in 1867, had banned black athletes, by the late 1870s.

[http://www.negroleaguebaseball.com/history101.html]

The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, as a war measure during the American Civil War, to all segments of the Executive branch (including the Army and Navy) of the United States. It proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states that were still in rebellion,[1] thus applying to 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the U.S. at the time. The Proclamation was based on the president’s constitutional authority as commander in chief of the armed forces;[2] it was not a law passed by Congress. The Proclamation also ordered that “suitable” persons among those freed could be enrolled into the paid service of United States’ forces, and ordered the Union Army (and all segments of the Executive branch) to “recognize and maintain the freedom of” the ex-slaves. The Proclamation did not compensate the owners, did not itself outlaw slavery, and did not make the ex-slaves (called freedmen) citizens. It made the eradication of slavery an explicit war goal, in addition to the goal of reuniting the Union.[3]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipation_Proclamation

 

Topics: Jim Crow Laws, Jules Tygiel, National Negro League, Segregation Era

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