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Brian Turner

the first African American to integrate baseball, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the second son of Nelson Askin and Sarah Lloyd. In 1844 Nelson Askin moved to Florence, a mill village in Northampton, Massachusetts, to open a livery. Across the road was the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, a utopian community whose ideals and practices ensured an integrated membership. Although the association disbanded in 1846, many members stayed in Florence, including Sojourner Truth and David Ruggles; their influence marked the village as a “sanctuary” for all, regardless of religion, class, or race. But in 1849, when Sarah Askin arrived in Florence with her six children, Nelson had already sold off parts of his property, and shortly thereafter the livery was seized by creditors. By 1850 Nelson had abandoned Sarah From then on Sarah took in washing to support her children who at the earliest ...


John Herschel Barnhill

right-handed baseball pitcher and occasional outfielder, was born in Detroit, Michigan, but grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Details of his parents’ names and occupations, and his own experiences before baseball, are not known.

Nicknamed the Black Diamond and the Georgia Rabbit, Ball was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 170 pounds. He ranked with Rube Foster, Harry Buckner, and Dan McClellan as one of the outstanding pitchers in black baseball. He was a shrewd, control pitcher, not overpowering but adept with the spitball. In many seasons, he won over twenty games, averaged more than one strikeout per inning, and held his earned run average below 2.00.

At first he played for otherwise all-white amateur or semipro teams in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. His first win was in 1896 by a score of 26 to 25 In his first North Dakota season he won 25 of 28 ...


Paul S. Boyer and Ronald Story

Americans had played bat-and-ball games for decades when, in 1845, Alexander Cartwright of New York devised the rules—foul lines, nine innings, three outs, ninety-foot basepaths—that created modern baseball. Cartwright's game quickly became popular with young clerks and urban craftsmen. By 1860, baseball had spread throughout the Northeast, and by 1870 to the rest of the nation.

The first teams were amateur, organized by men's clubs, the games ending with dinner and drinks. Some players earned good money from ambitious clubs, which charged admission in order to pay the players. The first wholly professional team was the Cincinnati (Ohio) Red Stockings of 1869, whose manager, Harry Wright, hired every player. Taking advantage of the burgeoning railroad system to tour the country, they challenged and defeated all teams they faced that year. In 1876, entrepreneurs formed the National League (NL), with salaried players and profit-seeking owners.

Baseball ...


Donald Scott

educator, activist, and baseball pioneer, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to Sara Isabella Cain, a woman from a prosperous mixed-race family, and William T. Catto, a Presbyterian minister. When Catto was about five years old, his father relocated the family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after being “called” to the city by the Presbytery and after some time to the ministry of the First African Presbyterian Church, a historic black church formed by the Reverend John Gloucester, a former slave, in 1807.

As a youngster Catto attended a number of Philadelphia-area public schools, including the Vaux Primary School. By 1854, though, he was enrolled in the newly opened Institute for Colored Youth, the forerunner of historically black Cheyney University, just south of Philadelphia.

William Catto and other black ministers convinced the Quaker administration to focus on classical topics including Latin Greek and mathematics and not just ...


Larry R. Gerlach

baseball player, was born John Jackson in Fort Plain, New York, the son of John W. Jackson, a barber, and Mary Lansing. By 1860 the family had moved to nearby Cooperstown, where Fowler grew up and, for reasons unknown, began calling himself John W. Fowler. Sol White, Fowler's contemporary and a pioneer historian of black baseball, claimed that Fowler began his playing career in 1869 with the black Mutuals of Washington, D.C. In 1872 he joined the New Castle, Pennsylvania, club, thereby becoming “the first colored ball player of note playing on a white [professional] team.” Though a staple of baseball folklore, White's unsubstantiated claim seems implausible given Fowler's age (fourteen).

Fowler's first documented appearance as a player is with a white team in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in April 1878 After pitching Chelsea to a 2 1 win over the National League champion Boston in an ...


Nathan M. Corzine

baseball player, was born Ulysses F. Grant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the youngest of seven children born to Franklin Grant, a farm laborer, and his wife, Frances. The family had come to Pittsfield from Dalton, Massachusetts, possibly because of Franklin's death. In any event, census records indicate that Franklin was not with the family when it relocated to Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1870. There Frances was employed as a domestic servant while her sons assisted in keeping house and worked as waiters in a local restaurant. While the Grants were not a wealthy family they made a comfortable life in Williamstown and may have even owned their own home.

Frank Grant however chose to seek his fortune on the ball field An outstanding baseball player he was already a local star when he pitched and caught for Pittsfield s amateur hometown team at the age of seventeen The ...


Larry Lester

baseball player also known as “Home Run Johnson,” was born in Findlay, Ohio, to Edward Johnson, a laborer, and Sarah Johnson, a housekeeper. His formal education is unknown.

Despite playing in the dubbed “Deadball Era,” characterized by loosely wrapped balls, and overused, the softer balls resulted in low-scoring games with fewer home runs. Johnson reportedly received his moniker playing for the 1894 Findlay (Ohio) Sluggers and the Cuban Giants, hitting sixty home runs against various levels of competition. Although the Cuban club was all black, the traditionally white Findlay team included one other black player, John “Bud” Fowler.

The following season, in 1895, Johnson and Fowler entered into a partnership with two companies, the Page Woven Fence Company and the Monarch Bicycle Company of Chicago, Illinois.

The Monarch Bicycle Company was a prominent sponsor because it capitalized on the nation s cycling craze led by African ...


Luke Nichter

Negro Baseball League officer, was a graduate of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Virtually nothing is known of his early or personal life—not where he was born,-nor precisely when, nor his parents' names and occupations, nor if he was ever married himself or had children. It is known that Leland played outfield for three seasons, from 1887 to 1889, with the Chicago Unions. He had actually started his baseball career with the Washington, D.C., Capital Cities in 1887, but when westward expansion of the black teams took place, he moved to Chicago, where he helped to form a total of five teams there.

Information about Negro League teams is in general sketchy, but it is known that from 1887 to 1890 the Chicago Unions operated part time as a weekend enterprise relying on passed hat contributions from the spectators to meet their expenses To attract top ...


Negro League baseball player, was born William S. Monroe, likely in Knox County, Tennessee, to Reverend Archie (Archey) S. and Rosa Monroe. One of the earliest stars of the Negro League and a close friend of storied League player, manager, and owner Rube Foster, Monroe, who was recognized throughout the United States and Cuba for his defensive prowess and all‐around showmanship, would have likely secured his place as an all‐time great had he not died unexpectedly at the age of thirty‐eight.

Monroe grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee; few details are known of his early life, but an obituary published in the Chicago Defender alludes to a stable upbringing, remarking on Monroe's “good school training” and his “fondness for outdoor life” as a young man. Though various source claim 1896 as Monroe's inaugural year in the Negro League, recordkeeping appears to have begun in 1899 when he played shortstop ...


Christopher W. Schmidt

baseball player, was most likely born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the child of a white father and a black mother whose names and occupations are unknown. He was raised in the predominantly white environment of Williamsport, and his earliest baseball experience placed him among mostly white teammates. As a teenager in the early 1880s Stovey played on amateur teams in Williamsport, and there is evidence that in 1885 he left home to play for a team in Elmira, New York. Some accounts place him the following year with a Canadian team. At some point early in the 1886 season he played for a short stint with the Cuban Giants an all black team based in Trenton New Jersey where he immediately established a reputation as a superb pitcher In a colorful account of the rising star one reporter wrote that his deliveries looked as large as an alderman s ...


Paul A. Frisch

hotel waiter, baseball entrepreneur, and social activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the youngest of the three children of Sarah Thompson. His father's name and occupation are not recorded.

In 1871 Thompson began his career as a hotel waiter at the Ocean House in Cape May, New Jersey. The last decades of the nineteenth century were a time of increasing de facto and legal racial segregation. Most black nonagricultural workers were engaged in unskilled labor, as they were excluded from more highly paid skilled occupations. The occupation of hotel waiter held a high level of prestige in the black community because such employment was relatively clean, safe, and steady, but more intangibly, because it offered access to a privileged stratum of white society that on occasion presented further opportunities for advancement. By 1878 Thompson had been promoted to head waiter. In October 1884 Thompson joined the Hotel Brotherhood ...


Larry R. Gerlach

baseball player and writer, was born in Mount Pleasant, Ohio, the son of Moses Walker, a minister and physician, and Caroline O'Harra. He grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, and in 1879 enrolled in historically integrated Oberlin College after two years in the school's preparatory program. The catcher on Oberlin's first varsity baseball team in 1881, Walker was the first African American to play white intercollegiate baseball. In 1882 and 1883 Walker played baseball and attended law school at the University of Michigan. Though an acclaimed ballplayer at both schools, he graduated from neither.

“Fleet,” as he was popularly known, began his professional baseball career in 1883 with the Toledo Blue Stockings of the Northwestern League. In 1884, when the league champions joined the major league American Association, Walker became the first black major leaguer in history. His younger brother Welday “Weldy” Wilberforce Walker signed ...


Christopher Devine

baseball player and activist, was born Welday Wilberforce Walker in Steubenville, Ohio. He was the fifth of six children born to Moses W. Walker, a physician and minister. He was reared, along with the rest of his siblings, by Caroline (O'Harra) Walker, but Weldy's death certificate lists his mother as Maria Simpson. This information was supplied to the coroner by Walker's nephew Thomas Gibson, who in the early 1920s claimed not to know Weldy's mother's identity. It is unclear whether the change in Gibson's information evidences newfound knowledge, a disclosed Walker family secret, or fiction. Walker's first name likely paid homage to the local pioneer Alexander Welday (although when and why Walker changed its spelling is unknown), and his middle name likely honored the English abolitionist William Wilberforce.

Steubenville where Walker would spend most of his life was a racially progressive town known for ...


David Bernstein

baseball player and manager and chronicler of early “blackball” years, also known as “Sol,” was born in Bellaire, Ohio, an industrial town across the Ohio river from Wheeling, West Virginia. Nothing is known of his parentage or early life. In 1883 White began his baseball career with a three-year stint with his hometown Bellaire Globes, an amateur team barnstorming the Ohio Valley. In 1886 White moved to the Wheeling Green Stockings of the Ohio State League and, after an abortive seven-game 1887 season with the Pittsburgh Keystones of the National Colored League, he returned to the integrated Wheeling club, reportedly batting .370 for the remaining fifty-two games, including 84 hits and 54 runs. Meanwhile, segregationist practices solidified in major league baseball, represented by Chicago star Adrian “Cap” Anson's July 1881 refusal to play against a team with a black player To play African American players filled the rosters of ...


Charles Rosenberg

and the only formerly enslaved man to play Major League Baseball in the United States, was born in Milner, Georgia, the son of Andrew Jackson (A.J.) White, a wealthy plantation owner and railroad president, and a woman who by the laws of Georgia at the time was his chattel property, named Hannah.

Andrew White’s will, written in 1877, left his entire estate to White, and his sisters, Anna Nora White and Sarah Adelaide White, “the children of my servant Hannah,” to be educated at schools in the North. The 1880 census shows Hannah White still living in Andrew White’s household in Georgia, listed as servant. The work of Peter Morris, for the Society of American Baseball Research, indicates that Hannah White had both African and European ancestors (her mother, Sarah, believed to be fully “black,” was born in Maryland around 1820 and her children likely about 75 percent ...