The Color Line and the PCL

22 Jan

In the spring of 1913 Walter “Judge” McCredie brought Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants to the West Coast to play five games against his Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League (PCL).  The American Giants won four of the games and also split a two-game series against Nick Williams’ Portland Colts of the Northwestern League.

Walter "Judge" McCredie

Walter “Judge” McCredie

When McCredie made arrangements with Foster for the American Giants to return west in 1914 it created a stir in the PCL.  Joe Murphy of The San Francisco Call wrote:

“Some of the magnates and officials of the Pacific Coast League are bitterly opposed to Manager Walter McCredie’s plan of playing a series of games with the Chicago Giants, an aggregation of colored ball players.  The Beavers played the colored tossers during their training trip last season and were badly beaten by them.”

Murphy said “no official action can be taken against McCredie to prevent his team engaging in games with the dusky tossers,” but said several prominent PCL figures “do not mince any words” regarding the games.

Dan Long, who had managed the San Francisco Seals from 1908 through 1912, was now a West Coast scout for the Chicago White Sox and booked the team’s 1914 spring games in California.  Long said he turned down a request for the Sox to play the American Giants:

“Colored players are barred in organized baseball, and I can see no reason why white players should even meet them in exhibition games, if they are barred by the baseball powers.  Baseball is a sport that must be elevated, and it is up to the managers and players to keep it free from criticism.

“I never arranged or played in any games with colored players, and I doubt Mr. (Charles) Comiskey, owner of the White Sox, would allow his team to play with the colored men.”

James Calvin “Cal” Ewing, the owner of the San Francisco Seals, who was one of the PCL’s founders and a former president of the league, was equally as outspoken:

“If I were a player working for McCredie, and he asked me to go out and play against these colored fellows, I would refuse to do it for him.

“There are two classes I bar from playing on my ball park—colored tossers and bloomer girls.  They will never use any park I control.”

Cal Ewing

Cal Ewing

Allan T. Baum, entering his third season as the PCL’s president said he was against the games, but was powerless to act because the games were played outside of the league’s regular season:

“I have no jurisdiction in the matter, but my sentiments are strongly against it.  I am sure that there is not another manager in the league who would consider playing with the Chicago Giants.”

Lester Aglar Walton, managing editor of the East Coast’s largest circulation black newspaper, The New York Age, responded to “the vicious article” from the West Coast:

“Joe Murphy, in an heroic effort to start needless agitation relative to the drawing of the color line in organized ball, does a journalistic stunt which, while humorous for the absurdities contained therein, is a curious document for the lamentable ignorance which this writer and other show on the subject.”

Walton said the color line was borne solely out of fear:

“The cowardly practice of using the color prejudice subterfuge as a cloak to hide the white man’s fear in open competition with the colored man in various avenues of endeavor will someday lose its effectiveness.  The truth of the matter is some white managers and players are not opposed to playing colored teams solely on account of color, for if their aversion was based purely on color the Indian would not be permitted to join organized baseball, nor would teams of the two major leagues journey every winter to Cuba to engage in games with native players, many of whom are as black as the ace of spades.”

“Manager Walter McCredie is the only game white man in the Pacific Coast League.  He is not afraid to permit his team to meet a strong colored nine and fight it out on the diamond.  There would not be a word of complaint today about the beavers and Giants playing a series of exhibition games had not the colored team given undisputed evidence of its supremacy last spring.”

Lester Aglar Watson

Lester Aglar Watson

McCredie claimed he wasn’t making a social statement.

He told The Portland Oregonian he needed to schedule the games in order to compete with teams like San Francisco in the regular season.  The Seals, he said, were preparing for the season by playing the White Sox, and taking in between $15,000 and $20,000 in the process:

“Yet they rave because I book the Beavers for four or five games against the Negroes, although they furnish the only stiff opposition available.

“It is to laugh.  Likewise the statement that playing against the Negroes hurts baseball.  It might, were we to consider them on an equal footing because of the strong race prejudice that exists here on the Coast. But the games are nothing more or less than training affairs.”

Despite the objections, Foster and his team arrived on the West Coast in March of 1914.

The rest of the story on Friday

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6 Responses to “The Color Line and the PCL”

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