October 15, 2007

Manic Monday: Bat

Manic Monday word for the week is "Bat". It is October ... time for the World Series and my thoughts turned to baseball. I'm proud to know that my ancestors have been playing professional baseball since right after the Civil War. In 1867, the National Association of Base Ball Players rejected a request for membership by the all-Black Philadelphia Pythians baseball club. However, on September 18, 1869, the Pythians did become the first all-Black team to play an exhibition game against an all-white team, the City Items. The Pythians won 27-17. Despite refusal to enter the professional leagues, African Americans fielded their own amateur and professional teams. On of the best known all-Black professional teams were the Cuban Giants.

One of the greatest African American players of the 19th century may have been Frank Grant who played second base for the Buffalo Bisons of the International Association. By the age of 20, he led the International League in hitting, but he was also subjected to constant harassment from opposing teams.

Moses Fleetwood Walker studied at Oberlin College where he started a varsity baseball team with the help of his younger brother. In 1884, Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first Black to play in the major leagues. He played as a catcher for the American Association Toledo Blue Stockings. His own teammates refused to play with him. Threatening letters called for the removal of Walker from the team.

In 1887, Fleetwood Walker, Bud Fowler, Frank Grant, Robert Higgins, George Stovey, and three other Black players went to play in the newly organized International League. Playing in the International League was also difficult for Blacks. Teams were comprised of both white and Black players and the Black players were often treated unkindly by the white players.

Racism in the International League continued to grow. One umpire said he would make calls against the team with Black players. In an effort to avoid the constant confrontation, major league owners made an agreement to no longer sign Black players. The minor leagues followed suite and declared that Black players would no longer be welcome on their teams. Teams stopped recruiting Black players, and they soon disappeared from organized white baseball. Black players would not return to white organized baseball for over sixty years. During the late 19th century at least 70 Black players played some level of organized baseball. Beyond this involvement, Blacks were on the outside looking in on the game of professional baseball.

Andrew "Rube" Foster was one of the most prominent individuals in the history of Black baseball. Born in 1879 in Calvert Texas, Foster pitched for several other teams throughout his career and was considered one of the best of his era.

Following his spectacular playing career, Foster became a manager, at which he greatly excelled; utilizing the bunt, stealing, and the hit-and-run. In 1920, he created the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, also known as the Negro League which was comprised of teams from Chicago (Giants and American Giants), Detroit (Stars), St. Louis (Giants), Dayton (Marcos), Indianapolis (ABCs) and the Cuban Giants. There was one exception however, the Kansas City Monarchs - founded in 1920 and controlled by white businessman J.L. Wilkinson. The league was disbanded in 1931 after the death of Rube Foster.

Other great Black ballplayers that you may know include Hall of Fame players Martin Dihigo, James "Cool Papa" Bell, Judy Johnson, Josh Gibson (shown in photo), and Buck Leonard.

Sometimes we think that Blacks in baseball began with Jackie Robinson. I hope that you've enjoyed the journey back into the original heroes of the game. Who are you rooting for in this year's World Series?


JaniceNW said...

I naturally think baseball this time of year. Unfortunately Seattle's baseball team sucks rocks. Along with their owners.

I love these stories of the Negro League. I have a few books on the history of it.

We are obviously baseball fans here. I think out very favorite series is the college world series. We were rooting for UCIrvine(my youngest brother went there, I also went to a UC.)Tho as long as a NW team won we be happy. OSU repeat!

Thanks for the comment! :)

Janna said...

Fascinating post! Obviously you know a LOT more about baseball than I do.
I know nothing about sports at all. :)

tegdirb92 said...

wow, I definitely learned a lot about baseball from this post. I am not a follower of the sport but I still enjoyed your post this week--thank you.

Gattina said...

I am sorry but I don't know anything about Baseball. And I have never heard of a Baseball game here in Belgium. It's soccer or Basketball or Rugby.

ian said...

Well, obviously, I'm pulling for the Rockies. And I suspect they'll not only make the World Series (I bet they complete another sweep tonight) but win it.


Villager said...

JaniceNW - I'm a UC graduate myself. I went to UC Riverside.

Janna, Tegdirb92 - Thanks for the visit this week!

Gattina - I know as little about rugby as you say you do about baseball (smile)

Ian - Rockies remind me an awful lot of those Damn Yankees ... have you seen that play before?

the teach said...

Villager, Great post, so much info! But I don't want to talk about baseball since the Mets and Yankees went down to defeat...:(
How about Satchel Paige, one of the great all-time black players? http://www.satchelpaige.com/

Come visit my MM post and my post about an African- and Native-American gravesite excavated under my childhood playground. http://maryt.wordpress.com

Happy MM!

crazy working mom said...

You always have the most information filled MM posts! :)

Thanks for stopping by my batty post.

Have a good one.

Jamie said...

That was a wonderful trip through history. The stories that came out of the negro league are fascinating. Some of the greatest players of all time and they had to play mainly for love of the game.

Villager said...

Teach - I'll come by to visit your post about the park. I agree that Satchel Paige was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Lou Gossett, Jr. played him in a movie back in the day.

CWM & Jamie - Thank you for visiting MM with us this week in the village.

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

Excellent history lesson. What a shame it took so long. Very well done. Have a great MM. :)

JaniceNW said...

You WILLINGLY went to UC Riverside? Snort. Big joke when I started school in 1980. I went to UCSD. I mean a college on the cliffs over the Pacific! Who knew it was a science school? Not me. I'd only been in Cali for a year when I applied. They did not have baseball teams when I was there, but now UCSD, UCI, UCSB all have baseball teams. My 16yo is considering SB and Irvine. He has some grades to bring up first.

Lisa Andel said...

Well Cleveland, of course.

And good going for Moses Walker, I'm partial to Oberlin College and anyone that went there.

But I never could figure out bigotry of any kind. Just plain stupid.

Villager said...

Sandee - I appreciate your comments and your visit to my MM post!

JaniceNW - Don't get me started on the reasons that I ended up at UCR. Although, I will note that they won two NCAA baseball championships when I was there ... even had a player (Eric Show) that made it to be the big show (he played for San Diego Padres). Anyhow, good luck with your 16-year old. UC does provide great education!

Villager said...

Lisa - I truly dislike the Boston Red Sox ... so, I am rooting for Cleveland Indians as well. Win one for Larry Doby!

Rhian / Crowwoman said...

i'm lucky to remember that baseball is the sport WITH the bat.
I did try to see if we have any famous ballplayers from my neck o' the woods but couldn't find one. So i guess we'll just have to stick with James Brown and Jessye Norman as our claims to fame.

Sophia said...

Wow what an amazing post!!! I am infatuated with the history of baseball. Unfortunately, the story you told is often left out. I think it's great that you posted it and I hope many people read it...and by the way, I'm rooting for the Rockies! And I hope Cleveland kills the Red Sox!!

Villager said...

Rhian and Sophia - It is a pleasure to have you both visiting us in our village. I hope that you will come by often in the future!

Mert said...

Wonderful post! I think you are so right, people do generally tend to think of Jackie Robinson. Happy MM!

katherine. said...

great post...so much history in baseball not well known.

sadly...none of the teams in the playoffs make my heart race...

Travis said...

Thanks for this history. I knew some history of the Black leagues in the early part of the 20th century, but not of the 19th century.