“The Greatest Utility Player of Color”

16 Dec

Henry “Harry” “Mike” Moore was among the pioneers of black baseball in Chicago.  He began his career at 19 with the Chicago Unions and was part of their 1895 team which was awarded Chicago’s “Amateur Baseball Association” championship in 1895.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“There were 159 competitors for the pennant, but the colored boys came out on top by winning forty-seven games out of fifty-six played.”

The next year, The Chicago Inter Ocean said the Unions “closed the season of ’96 with as good a record as ever made by any amateur team either East or West.”

 They ended the season 100-19 with three ties.

In 1897, when the Unions appeared in a charity game for recently retired White Stockings 2nd baseman Fred Pfeffer, The Tribune said they had “played 129 games, winning 113,” that season.

Moore pitched and was a utility player at first, third, and the outfield for the Unions and later was primarily a utility outfielder and corner infielder for several clubs through 1913.

Moore, seated second from left, with Leland Giants 1909

Moore died in September of 1917 of tuberculosis, and was eulogized by Dave Wyatt—negro league player turned sports writer—in The Chicago Defender:

“Harry (Mike) Moore is dead. Such was the sad, sad news that was passed to thousands of the devotees of the national pastime early last week.”

Wyatt said that Moore had been in ill health since at least 1911, “His last appearance as a member of a big club” when Moore played with Frank Leland’s Chicago Giants is a series against Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants.

Wyatt said of him, pre illness:

“Moore was rightfully considered the greatest utility player of color that has ever been introduced to the baseball public. He was without a peer as a center fielder, big leaguers not excluded. He was known and admired by all baseball men, white and black.”

Moore, he said, was “quiet, unassuming and his temperament was as mild as a baby’s. He was a gentleman both on and off the field. If he was ever ruffled or offended over a misplay, the derisions of the crowds, or an adverse decision of the umpire, no person has ever been able to discern a surface show of the same.”

Wyatt called Moore “one of the game’s greatest batters…a natural hitter. He had a free and easy swing but his swipe carried terrific force.”

Two months before Moore’s death, a benefit game was played at Schorling’s Park involving players from the Chicago Giants, Union Giants, and American Giants—the teams were called Pete Hill’s Stars and John Henry Lloyd’s Stars—the game, according to The Defender:

“(W)as much of a success, as Mr. (Rube) Foster, who donated his park, has $117, with more people to be heard from. Charles A. Comiskey sent a check for $25.”

The paper said C.I. Taylor “sent his bit from Indianapolis, as did players and managers from other part of the country.”

Hill’s Stars won the game 2 to 0.

Box score for Moore benefit game

Wyatt closed, saying:

“Long and lasting may the memory of Harry ‘Mike’ Moore exist.”

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