First black to play Professioal Baseball–Not Jackie Robinson


While it is widely accepted that Jackie Robinson was the first black player on a Major league team, he was not the first African-American on a “professional”  [play for pay] team.

In 1884, Moses Fleetwood Walker, commonly known as  “Fleetwood”  (or “Fleet”) Walker, made his debut two months before his brother Weldy.

On May 1, 1884, Moses Fleetwood Walker played his first game for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association, which was considered to be an affiliate of Major League Baseball. [Several teams from the AA joined the National League upon the league’s disbanding in 1891. Today the Reds, Pirates, Cardinals and Dodgers all remain MLB clubs today that began play in the AA.]

Two months later, his brother Weldy joined the Pittsburgh Keystones of the short-lived National Colored Base Ball League.

The Walker brothers in 1884 were the last African Americans to play Major League Baseball for more than 60 years until Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.[34][35]

In 1887 segregation was on the upswing and the Tri-State League joined the trend and banned black players, including Weldy Walker.

So, in March 1888, Weldy Walker wrote a letter to the league’s president protesting the decision.

In his 1970 history of racial segregation in baseball, Only The Ball Was Black, Robert Peterson described Weldy’s letter as “perhaps the most passionate cry for justice ever voiced by a Negro athlete.”[1]

In the letter, Walker wrote:


The law is a disgrace to the present age, and reflects very much upon the intelligence of your last meeting, and casts derision at the laws of Ohio – the voice of the people – that say all men are equal.

 I would suggest that your honorable body, in case that black law is not repealed, pass one making it criminal for a colored man or woman to be found on a ball ground … There should be some broader cause – such as lack of ability, behavior and intelligence – for barring a player, rather than his color.

It is for these reasons and because I think ability and intelligence should be recognized first and last – at all times and by everyone – I ask the question again, ‘

"Why was the law permitting colored men to sign repealed ?‘[1][43]"


On March 14, 1888, and at Weldy’s request, his letter was published in The Sporting Life under the headline “Why Discriminate?”[44][45] In his book on baseball’s segregation, Robert Peterson wrote that Weldy’s question “went unanswered, because it was unanswerable . . . but the truth was plain for all who wished to see it: Jim Crow was warming up.[46]

Willie Mays was the last MLB player to play in the Negro leagues–three years with the Birmingham Black Barons before being signed by the New York Giants.

The last Negro league player, who made it to MLB, to retire was Minnie Minoso and he retired three times; he first retired in the 1960’s but returned for a few at bats for the White Sox in 1976  and again in 1980 to make him the only player to play in 5 decades.



Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams by Robert Peterson (Apr 30, 1992)



  1. ^ a b c Peterson 1970, p. 32.
  2. ^ a b c d Josh Kleinbaum (April 20, 1999). “A Fleeting Ambition”. The Michigan Daily. via Big Ten Conference.
  3. ^ David W. Zang (1998). Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major Leaguer. University of Nebraska Press. p. 8. ISBN 0803299133.
  4. ^ Zang 1998, p. 16.
  5. ^ a b c Robert Peterson (1970). Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams. Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0195076370. (“His brother, Weldy Wilberforce Walker, who was to become the second Negro major leaguer, played right field.”)
  6. ^ Joseph Dorinson (1999). Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports, and the American Dream. M.E. Sharpe. p. 24. ISBN 0765603187.
  7. ^ 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Steubenville Ward 1, Jefferson, Ohio; Roll: M593_1228; Page: 30B; Image: 65; Family History Library Film: 552727.
  8. ^ 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Steubenville, Jefferson, Ohio; Roll: 1037; Family History Film: 1255037; Page: 452D; Enumeration District: 110; Image: 0495.
  9. ^ Zang 1998, p. 15.
  10. ^ a b c d Rich Adler (2004). Baseball at the University of Michigan. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 10–17. ISBN 0738532215.
  11. ^ “Minority Student Records”. Oberlin College. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  12. ^ Zang 1998, p. 22.
  13. ^ Ocania Chalk (1976). Black College Sport. Dodd, Mead. p. 4.
  14. ^ a b Adler 2004, p. 15.
  15. ^ Zang 1998, p. 32.
  16. ^ “College News”. The Chronicle. October 7, 1882. p. 14.
  17. ^ “Various Topics”. The Chronicle. October 21, 1882. p. 17.
  18. ^ The University Palladium, 1884, The Inland Press, p. 67.
  19. ^ Adler 2004, p. 16.
  20. ^ Zang 1998, p. 32.
  21. ^ Adler 2004, p. 11.
  22. ^ Adler 2004, p. 10.
  23. ^ “Fleet Walker Statistics and History”.
  24. ^ “Welday Walker”. Negro League Baseball Players Association.
  25. ^ Peterson 1970, p. 22.
  26. ^ Guy McL Smith (November 1, 1945). “Moses Walker, Catcher for Toledo in ’84, First Negro Player to Perform in Majors”. The Sporting News.
  27. ^ a b c “Welday Walker”. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  28. ^ Roger A. Bruns. Negro Leagues Baseball. p. 6. (“Fleet’s brother, Weldy, joined the Bluestockings and played in five games in 1884, and thus, he too competed in baseball’s major leagues.”)
  29. ^ Kyle McNary (2006). Black Baseball: A History of African-Americans & the National Game. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 12. ISBN 1856487768. (“Fleet and his brother Welday were on the team, becoming the first two black players in Major League history”)
  30. ^ a b David L. Fleitz (2005). Cap Anson: The Grand Old Man Of Baseball. McFarland. p. 119. ISBN 0786422386.
  31. ^ Peter Morris (2003). Baseball Fever: Early Baseball in Michigan. University of Michigan Press. p. 202. ISBN 0472068261. (“two former University of Michigan students, Fleetwood and Welday Walker, became the first African Americans to play in the major leagues”)
  32. ^ Jerome Holtzman (April 15, 1998). “For Baseball’s 1st Real Black, Fame Wasn’t Even Fleeting”. Chicago Tribune.
  33. ^ Robert Peterson (1970). Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams. Oxford University Press. p. 24. ISBN 0195076370.
  34. ^ a b John E. Dreifort. Baseball History from Outside the Lines. p. 64.
  35. ^ Sol White (1996). Sol White’s History of Colored Baseball. University of Nebraska Press. p. xvii. ISBN 0803297831.
  36. ^ David Quentin Voigt (1983). American Baseball: From the Commissioners to Continental Expansion. Penn State University Press. p. 278. ISBN 0271003340.
  37. ^ Mark Lamster (2007). Spalding’s World Tour. PublicAffairs. p. 68. ISBN 1586484338.
  38. ^ Adler 2004, p. 16.
  39. ^ a b c d e Donald Lankiewicz (Summer 1992). “Fleet Walker in the Twilight Zone”. Queen City Heritage (Cincinnati Historical Society). pp. 2–10.
  40. ^ a b c “Welday Walker Minor League Statistics & History”. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  41. ^ “untitled”. Cleveland Gazette. August 21, 1886. (available by subscription from
  42. ^ Peterson 1970, p. 32.
  43. ^ Joseph Dorinson (1999). Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports, and the American Dream. M.E. Sharpe. p. 27. ISBN 0765603187.
  44. ^ “WHY DISCRIMINATE? An Appeal to the Tri-State League By a Colored Player”. The Sporting Life. March 14, 1888.
  45. ^ David Kenneth Wiggins (2003). The Unlevel Playing Field: A Documentary History of the African American Experience in Sport. University of Illinois Press. p. 38. ISBN 0252028201.
  46. ^ Peterson 1970, p. 33.
  47. ^ a b “Twin City Topics. What is “Going On” in Pittsburgh and Allegheny”. Cleveland Gazette. June 2, 1888. (available by subscription from
  48. ^ James A. Riley (2002). The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. Carroll & Graf Publ. p. 811. ISBN 0786709596.
  49. ^ “Steubenville. Discrimination—Personal and Social Notes”. Cleveland Gazette. January 24, 1885. (available by subscription from
  50. ^ a b c “Damages for Violated Civil Rights”. The Indiana Democrat Indiana, Pennsylvania). January 16, 1885. (available through subscription at
  51. ^ David Kenneth Wiggins, Patrick B. Miller (2003). The Unlevel Playing Field: A Documentary History of the African American Experience in Sport. University of Illinois Press. p. 36. ISBN 0252028201.
  52. ^ a b Zang 1998, pp. 45–46.
  53. ^ a b c “Walker Vs. Gant. Weldy W. Walker Roasts Nelson T. Gant as a Result Of an Attack the Latter Made Upon Him in a Newspaper Some Time Ago – A Political Discussion of Interest to All”. Cleveland Gazette. (available by subscription through
  54. ^ “A Lynching At Urbana: Wounding of the Jail Assailants Arouses More Local Indignation than the Murder of the Negro; Citizens Blame the Militia; Mayor Ganson Says He Urged the Sheriff to Remove Michell Before Trouble Came – Gov. Bushnell Explains His Share in the Tragedy”. The New York Times. June 6, 1897.
  55. ^ “The Negro Protective Party: Afro-American and Many White Republicans to Support It—Prompt Action Necessary”. Cleveland Gazette. October 16, 1897.
  56. ^ “Sarcasm Galore: The Negro Protective Party and Messrs. Bruce, Lynch and Green’s Part in the Recent Contest; The Murderers of “Click” Mitchell Still at Large – No Effort Being Made To Apprehend Them”. Cleveland Gazette. November 13, 1897.
  57. ^ “The Negro Protective Party”. Plain Dealer. September 24, 1897.
  58. ^ “”Annual Report of the Secretary of State to the Governor and General Assembly of the State of Ohio for the Year Ending November 15, 1897”. The Laning Printing Co. 1898.
  59. ^ “Rev. John Dickerson, P. E.”. Cleveland Gazette. October 23, 1897.
  60. ^ “Still Abusing the Negroes”. Plain Dealer. October 14, 1897.
  61. ^ “Seek The Law’s Aid: The Negro Protective Party Wants Its Emblem at the Head of Its Ticket”. Plain Dealer. October 8, 1897.
  62. ^ “untitled editorial”. Cleveland Gazette. November 20, 1897.
  63. ^ Zang 1998, p. 45.
  64. ^ “Our Ohio Klondike. Letters from All Parts of the Buckeye State Written by Our Own”. Cleveland Gazette. December 18, 1897.
  65. ^ “”Fleet” Walker In Trouble”. The Star (Sandusky, Ohio). December 14, 1898. p. 2.
  66. ^ a b David Zang (1997). “Fleeting Evidence: A Case Study of Handwriting and History”. Journal of Sports History. pp. 50–51.
  67. ^ a b Weldy Wilberforce Walker, alumni questionnaire, July 15, 1908, Oberlin College Archives (pdf copy is Document 4 here [1]).
  68. ^ Census entry for Fleet Walker and family, including Weldy Walker. Weldy’s birth is listed as July 1860. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Steubenville Ward 4, Jefferson, Ohio; Roll: 1290; Page: 20B; Enumeration District: 82; FHL microfilm: 1241290.
  69. ^ Zang 1998, p. 95.
  70. ^ “The Colonel’s “Turn Down.” Negotiating for Hotel Property—Personal and Other Interesting Local News”. Cleveland Gazette. January 27, 1906.
  71. ^ Zang 1998, p. 96.
  72. ^ a b David Zang (1983). “Moses Fleetwood Walker: A Reaction To Baseball’s Nineteenth Century Color Line”. NASSH Proceedings.
  73. ^ M. F. Walker (1908). Our Home Colony: A Treatise on the Past, Present, and Future of the Negro Race in America. The Herald Printing Co., Steubenville, Ohio. p. copyright page.
  74. ^ M. F. Walker 1908, p. 31.
  75. ^ M. F. Walker 1908, p. 29.
  76. ^ Robert Elias (2010). The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy and Promoted the American Way Abroad. The New Press. p. 58. ISBN 1595581952. (“Fleetwood and his brother Weldy Walker became agents for black relocation to Liberia.”)
  77. ^ Census entry for Thomas F. Walker household, including Welday W. Walker. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Steubenville Ward 3, Jefferson, Ohio; Roll: T624_1201; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0128; Image: 970; FHL microfilm: 1375214.
  78. ^ a b Census entry for Thomas F. Walker household, including Welda W. Walker, uncle, born in Ohio (mother and father both born in Ohio). Not employed. Marital status listed as “S”, meaning single and not widowed or divorced. Thomas employed as the keeper of a hotel.
  79. ^ “Cleveland Social and Personal”. Cleveland Gazette. July 2, 1921. (“The editor of The Gazette entertained his old friends, M. Fleet and Weldy Walker, at a sumptuous dinner at the Royal Inn, Tuesday evening. They spent Monday in Oberlin and left for their homes, Wednesday afternoon.”)
  80. ^ Weldy W. Walker (November 20, 1920). “For Harding, Willis and Davis”. Cleveland Gazette. (available by subscription through
  81. ^ “untitled”. Cleveland Gazette. May 17, 1924. (available by subscription through
  82. ^ a b Census entry for Weldy W. Walker. His marital status is listed as single, never married. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Place: Steubenville, Jefferson, Ohio; Roll: 1825; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 32; Image: 275.0; FHL microfilm: 2341559.
  83. ^ a b State of Ohio, Certificate of Death, File No. 69927, dated November 26, 1937. (Note: The death certificate identifies Walker’s mother as Maria Simpson, not Catherine (O’Hara) Walker.)