Google+ Badge BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
Monday, 22 July 2013
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : THE HISTORY OF THE NEGRO LEAGUE - A TIME WHEN BLACK PEOPLE WERE IN A STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY AND TO BE TREATED AS HUMAN BEING - A STRUGGLE THAT STILL GOES ON TO DAY :
The Philadelphia Giants, owned by Walter Schlichter, a white businessman, rose to prominence in 1903 when they lost to the Cuban X-Giants in their version of the "Colored Championship". Leading the way for the Cubans was a young pitcher by the name of Andrew "Rube" Foster. The following season, Schlichter, in the finest blackball tradition, hired Foster away from the Cubans, and beat them in their 1904 rematch. Philadelphia remained on top of the blackball world until Foster left the team in 1907 to play and manage the Leland Giants (Frank Leland renamed his Chicago Union Giants the Leland Giants in 1905).
Around the same time, Nat Strong, a white businessmen, started using his ownership of baseball fields in the New York City area to become the leading promoter of blackball on the East coast. Just about any game played in New York, Strong would get a cut. Strong eventually used his leverage to almost put the Brooklyn Royal Giants out of business, and then he bought the club and turned it into a barnstorming team.
When Foster joined the Leland Giants, he demanded that he be put in charge of not only the on-field activities, but the bookings as well. Foster immediately turned the Giants into the team to beat. He indoctrinated them to take the extra base, to play hit and run on nearly every pitch, and to rattle the opposing pitcher by taking them deep into the count. He studied the mechanics of his pitchers and could spot the smallest flaw, turning his average pitchers into learned craftsmen. Foster also was able to turn around the business end of the team as well, by demanding and getting 40 percent of the gate instead of the 10 percent that Frank Leland was getting.
By the end of the 1909, Foster demanded that Leland step back from all baseball operations or he (Foster) would leave. When Leland would not give up complete control, Foster quit, and in a heated court battle, got to keep the rights to the Leland Giants' name. Leland took the players and started a new team named the Chicago Giants, while Foster took the Leland Giants and started to encroach on Nat Strong's territory.
As early as 1910, Foster started talking about reviving the concept of an all-black league. The one thing he was insistent upon was that black teams should be owned by black men. This put him in direct competition with Strong. After 1912, Foster renamed his team the Chicago American Giants to appeal to a larger fan base. During the same year, J. L. Wilkinson started the All Nations traveling team. The All Nations team would eventually become one of the best-known and popular teams of the Negro leagues, the Kansas City Monarchs.
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I. Manpower needed by the defense plants and industry accelerated the migration of blacks from the South to the North. This meant a larger and more affluent fan base with more money to spend. By the end of the war in 1919, Foster was again ready to start a Negro baseball league.
On February 13 and 14, 1920, talks were held in Kansas City, Missouri that established the Negro National League and its governing body the National Association of Colored Professional Base Ball Clubs. The league was initially composed of eight teams: Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Cuban Stars, Dayton Marcos, Detroit Stars, Indianapolis ABC's, Kansas City Monarchs and St. Louis Giants. Foster was named league president and controlled every aspect of the league, including which players played on which teams, when and where teams played, and what equipment was used (all of which had to be purchased from Foster). Foster, as booking agent of the league, took a five percent cut of all gate receipts.
On May 2, 1920, the Indianapolis ABCs beat the Chicago American Giants (4–2) in the first game played in the inaugural season of the Negro National League, played at Washington Park in Indianapolis. But, because of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, the National Guard still occupied the Giants' home field, Schorling's Park (formerly South Side Park). This forced Foster to cancel all the Giants' home games for almost a month and threatened to become a huge embarrassment for the league. On March 2, 1920 the Negro Southern League was founded in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1921, the Negro Southern League joined Foster's National Association of Colored Professional Base Ball Clubs. As a dues-paying member of the association, it received the same protection from raiding parties as any team in the Negro National League.
Foster then admitted John Connors' Atlantic City Bacharach Giants as an associate member to move further into Nat Strong's territory. Connors, wanting to return the favor of helping him against Strong, raided Ed Bolden's Hilldale Daisies team. Bolden saw little choice but to team up with Foster's nemesis, Nat Strong. Within days of calling a truce with Strong, Bolden made an about-face and signed up as an associate member of Foster's Negro National League.
On December 16, 1922, Bolden once again shifted sides and, with Strong, formed the Eastern Colored League as an alternative to Foster's Negro National League, which started with six teams: Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, Baltimore Black Sox, Brooklyn Royal Giants, New York Cuban Stars, Hilldale, and New York Lincoln Giants.
1925 saw the St. Louis Stars come of age in the Negro National League. They finished in second place during the second half of the year due in large part to their pitcher turned center fielder,Cool Papa Bell, and their shortstop, Willie Wells. A gas leak in his home nearly asphyxiated Rube Foster in 1926, and his increasingly erratic behavior led to him being committed to an asylum a year later. While Foster was out of the picture, the owners of the National League elected William C. Hueston as new league president. In 1927, Ed Bolden suffered a similar fate as Foster, by committing himself to a hospital because the pressure was too great. The Eastern League folded shortly after that, marking the end of the Negro League World Series between the NNL and the ECL.
After the Eastern League folded following the 1927 season, a new eastern league, the American Negro League, was formed to replace it. The makeup of the new ANL was nearly the same as the Eastern League, the exception being that the Homestead Grays joined in place of the now-defunct Brooklyn Royal Giants. The ANL lasted just one season. In the face of harder economic times, the Negro National League folded after the 1931 season. Some of its teams joined the only Negro league then left, the Negro Southern League.
On March 26, 1932 the Chicago Defender announced the end of Negro National League.
Just as Negro league baseball seemed to be at its lowest point and was about to fade into history, along came Cumberland Posey and his Homestead Grays. Posey, Charlie Walker, John Roesnik, George Rossiter, John Drew, Lloyd Thompson and L.R. Williams got together in January 1932 and founded the East-West League. Eight cities were included in the new league: "Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Newark, New York, and Washington D.C.". By May 1932, the Detroit Wolves were about to collapse, and instead of letting the team go, Posey kept pumping money into it. By June the Wolves had disintegrated and all the rest of the teams, except for the Grays, were beyond help, so Posey had to terminate the league.
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 about Posey's money-making machine in Homestead, he became obsessed with the sport and his Crawfords. 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. On opening day, April 30, 1932, the pitcher-catcher battery was made up of the two most marketable icons in all of blackball: Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.
In 1933, Greenlee, riding the popularity of his Crawfords, became the next man to start a Negro league. In February 1933, Greenlee and delegates from six other teams met at Greenlee's Crawford Grill to ratify the constitution of the National Organization of Professional Baseball Clubs. The name of the new league was the same as the old league Negro National League which had disbanded a year earlier in 1932. The members of the new league were the Pittsburgh Crawfords, Columbus Blue Birds, Indianapolis ABCs, Baltimore Black Sox, Brooklyn Royal Giants, Cole's American Giants (formerly the Chicago American Giants) and Nashville Elite Giants. Greenlee also came up with the idea to duplicate the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, except, unlike the big league method in which the sportswriters chose the players, the fans voted for the participants. The first game, known as the East-West All-Star Game, was held September 10, 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago before a crowd of 20,000.