BLACK CHICAGO BASEBALL...

Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by Isaiah, Jan 24, 2006.

  1. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Pride and prejudice
    For 30 years, Negro league teams took a back seat to no one


    By Don Terry
    Published June 20, 2004


    Decked out in fedoras and wide-lapel suits, stylish dresses and platform shoes, up to 51,000 African-Americans streamed into Comiskey Park near the end of every summer from 1933 to 1953. They came for a Sunday afternoon of black power, promise and pride, the grand finale of a festive weekend that went largely unnoticed by the country's white citizens in the years before the Civil Rights Movement changed the nation.

    One year, organizers estimated 10,000 people had to be turned away at the 35th Street gates. Scalpers and counterfeiters did a brisk business. South Side dress shops, hotels and restaurants worked overtime to keep up with the influx of visitors. Bronzeville was jumping around the clock. As one contemporary pundit put it, the nightclubs were loaded and so were the patrons.

    On Sunday morning, folks might leave a little something extra in the collection plate at church for luck, then hurry over to Comiskey to get the best seats--maybe even an up-close peek at Joe Louis, Lena Horne or some other black celebrity. There was no telling what wonders might be witnessed. But first everyone in the stadium stood for the National Anthem, despite the insults and injuries that made up so much of life in apartheid America. As the last notes drifted over the walls, the call that everyone had come to hear rang out:

    "Play ball!"

    Another East-West All-Star game was under way. The contest was the crowning glory of the Negro league season. The series began the same year as the major league all-star games. There were several years from the late '30s to the late '40s when the East-West game outdrew the major league version.

    Chicago was the capital of this parallel baseball universe. "I went to every East-West game from '33 until I was inducted into the Army in '43," says Timuel D. Black Jr., author of the recently published, "Bridges of Memory, Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration." "People from all over the country would come to Chicago. We'd feel like big shots because we were hosting the game."

    In 1943, four years before Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier, more than 51,000 people filled Comiskey for the "colored classic," according to Larry Lester's book, "Black Baseball's National Showcase."

    "It was like a holiday for black America," Lester says. "People came out in their Sunday best."

    Yet if you weren't a regular reader of the Chicago Defender, the Pittsburgh Courier or some other African-American weekly, chances are you probably didn't know much about one of the biggest sporting events in the country. Indeed, author Donn Rogosin titled his 1983 book about life in the Negro leagues, "Invisible Men."

    Black professional baseball traces its roots to the late 1880s, around the time that a "gentlemen's agreement" banned African-Americans from participating in the major leagues. Cap Anson, a white superstar player and manager of the Chicago White Stockings, the precursor of the Cubs, endorsed the color line when he refused to play against Moses Fleetwood Walker, a black catcher on an opposing team. "Get that ****** off the field," Anson reportedly hissed.

    But black America didn't slink off the field or just go sit in the segregated stands, content to watch the white boys play through the chicken wire that some ballparks put up to keep the black spectators away from the white. Black pioneers in business suits and starched collars started their own teams and then their own professional leagues, turning baseball into another front in the struggle for civil rights.

    No place was more important to the birth of this movement in spikes than Chicago, the adopted hometown of Andrew "Rube" Foster, who was known as "the Father of the Negro leagues." Born the son of a Texas minister in 1879, Foster left school after the 8th grade to chase his baseball dreams. He caught most of them, except for the one he wanted most, a chance to see black men play in the major leagues. He died 17 years too early.

    In his remarkable career, Foster was a team owner, a brilliant field manager and widely considered one of the best pitchers of his era, black or white. At 6 feet 2 and more than 200 pounds, he was a crafty hurler with a wicked "fadeaway," what modern ballplayers would call a screwball.

    He moved to Chicago in 1907, wooed to town by Frank C. Leland, a college-educated black businessman and former ballplayer. Leland put together one of the best teams in the Midwest and named it after himself, the Leland Giants. The Giants' home field was Auburn Park at 79th Street and Wentworth Avenue, and Foster was the team's star and later its manager. "Leland is all but forgotten," says Kansas City-based Negro league historian Phil Dixon. "That's a shame, because he did so much to put black baseball on the map."



    In the first 20 years of the last century, black teams were barnstorming independents, playing wherever they could. Although the major leagues wouldn't allow African-American teams, there were white semipro leagues that did. One of them was the Chicago City League. The Leland Giants handily won the league championship in 1909, setting the stage for a three-game exhibition series against the powerful Cubs.

    The Cubs had been steamrolling through white professional baseball the previous few years, but in 1909 the team narrowly missed the postseason. Foster challenged their vanity and promised to help fill their pocketbooks if they would pit their nine against his.

    The Cubs won the first game 4-1, but the Giants' Joe Green stole the show. "Giants' Center Fielder Breaks One Leg and Tries to Score on Other One," proclaimed the Chicago Daily Tribune of Oct. 19. Green apparently broke his leg sliding into third. When the ball sailed into the outfield, Green was helped to his feet and pushed toward the plate. He hopped to within a yard of home plate before being tagged out, the Tribune reported. He collapsed and had to be carried off the field.

    The next game, on Oct. 21, found the Cubs down by three runs in the ninth inning. They appeared "hopelessly beaten," according to Ring Lardner, the Tribune's scribe on the scene. Fans were heading for the exits when the Cubs "rallied and began to hit Rube Foster to the four winds of heaven." One Cub "smote" a Foster delivery off the right field boards and the rally was on.

    The tricky Foster had handcuffed the major leaguers all afternoon. But in the late innings he weakened. As he tired, he dipped into his bag of tricks. "Rube, feeling he was slipping, started to work about as fast as a hippopotamus would run on skis," Lardner observed.

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    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/specials/chi-baseball9-story,1,1624928.story?page=2&coll=cs-whitesox-utility


    PEACE!
    ZEKE
     
  2. $$RICH$$

    $$RICH$$ Lyon King Admin. STAFF

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    Thank you for the true insight of black baseball chicago !!!! the home where it all started
     
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