The Page Fence Giants would become one of the great early teams in black baseball; some sources say they played 156 games, winning 118 their first year. But things did not go well in their first game.
Organized by John “Bud” Fowler and Grant “Home Run” Johnson, the team represented the Adrian, Michigan-based Page Woven Wire Fence Company; at the time the nation’s largest fence company; Augustus “Gus” Parsons served as the team’s business manager and scheduled their games (he’s often misidentified as the team’s manager).
Their first game was scheduled for April 10 against the Western League’s Indianapolis Hoosiers.
The Indianapolis News said of the Giants:
“Besides playing ball they perform feats of tumbling, and there is a quartet among them that sings between innings.”
The team also would arrive in towns riding bicycles in parade formation (the Giants’ other sponsor was the Monarch Bicycle Company).
While they often played for mostly white crowds The News said the stands “were very nearly peopled” with black fans; they did not get the show they had hoped for:
“In the first inning the Indianapolis team had fourteen men to bat and scored eight runs. It seemed evident that one more inning of slaughter like the first would precipitate a race riot, and President (and manager William “Bill”) Watkins diplomatically let up. The ease with which Indianapolis did everything it wanted to, and the “rough deal” the colored team received at the hands of umpire Andrews conspired to make the score look like the original report of the Armenian massacre…The one-sided score, which misrepresents both teams as far as figures are concerned.”
Page Fence lost 26-1.
Despite their first game, the Giants continued drawing crowds and winning games until they disbanded in 1898—with most of the players joining the newly formed Chicago Columbia Giants.