The 1925 Homestead Grays

18 Jun

Twenty-five games into the 1925 season, the independent Homestead Grays had won 23 games, lost one and tied one according to The Pittsburgh Courier.

Bill Nunn of The Courier called the club, “Pittsburgh’s one winning ballclub,” and regionally the “greatest drawing card in baseball.”

He estimated that more than 70,000 fans, “male and female, white and black” had attended Grays games to that point of the season.

Nunn provided rare sketches of the players “From the plate to the fence.”

Of the team’s three catchers he said:

Bill Pierce was, “colorful and forceful, with a mighty arm and powerful bat. William “Pep” Young, he said was, “A veteran with a wise head, and an almost uncanny ability to detect the opposing batter’s weakness.” Harry “Rags” Roberts was, “The Nick Altrock of the Grays,” and the converted outfielder was, “a wonderful utility man.”

The pitchers:

Oscar Owens was, “a speedball artist. The strength of his arm and the power of his bat had made him a popular idol.” Smokey Joe Williams was, “showing the way to all others …his fastball, which travels a bit faster than Oscar’s, is sending him to the top with leaps and bounds.”

Smokey Joe Williams

Charles “Lefty” Williams, “The Grays little southpaw” had been with the club since 1921 and, “His work has done much to place the Grays in the enviable position they hold today.” Laudie “Pete” Walker was, “A protégé of ‘Dizzy’ Dismukes, and the latest addition to the staff,” had, “a world of speed and a puzzling curve ball.”

First baseman Willie “Dolly” Gray had, “the flashiness of a (Charlie) Grimm and the speed of a reindeer (he) is hitting like a demon.”

Second baseman Raymond “Mo” Harris was, “Reliable, cool under fire and a dangerous man at the bat by reason of the fact that he seldom goes after bad ones, and makes a pitcher lay it ‘in the groove.’ Mo fits in nicely.”

Shortstop Gerard Williams, “Captain of the club…first appeared in Pittsburgh playing with Dismukes’ Keystones…Williams is one of the greatest shortstops of modern days.”

Third baseman Jasper “Jap” Washington had, “a pair of the biggest hands in baseball, a powerful arm, and a mighty bat. Jap’s colorful work, his fighting heart and withal, his good nature, has endeared him here.”

Right fielder Dennis “Peaches” Graham was, “The Grays most consistent hitter…a former schoolteacher and a college graduate is quiet and unassuming, but when a drive goes into right, or a hit is needed to score a run, Graham is sure to produce.” Nunn said Graham had hit safely in all 25 games and was, “the fastest man on the Grays team going down to first base and is hailed by opposing teams everywhere as the greatest all-around ball player, white or black, they have ever seen.”

Center Fielder Willis Moody, “a product of the West Virginia hills…is said by old fans to be as good a fly chaser as Oscar Charleston in his palmiest days.”

Left Fielder Vic Harris completed “the greatest outfield combination the grays have ever known, and one of the greatest in the country. Harris was, “a sure fielder and his bat peals a merry tune.”

Vic Harris

Sam “Lefty” Streeter, who Nunn identified as “Joe,” had yet to pitch for the Grays but had arrived in Pittsburgh that week after having started the season with the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro National League. His acquisition provided the Grays with “a pitching staff equal to any in Negro baseball.” The Alabama native was, “said to be one of the greatest pitchers ever developed in the south.”

By August, The Courier reported the Grays had played 100 games, with a record of 84-14-2

1925 Grays Back Row, left to right: Washington, Walker, J. Williams, Pierce, Charlie Craig, Young, Owens R. Harris Front row left to right: Moddy, J. Williams, G. Williams, Graham, V. Harris, Roberts, Streeter, Gray. Scales is not pictured.

Nunn’s opinion of the club did not wane. In September he called manager Cum Posey a, “shrewd diplomat of human merchandise,” who had “built up a team of stars which includes on his roster some of the greatest baseball players of modern times.”

Nunn claimed that Owens threw “four no-hit games” that season, and in In another column in July, he described the Grays hurler:

“One of the most picturesque figures in independent baseball…The muscular Adonis has won 19 games, lost two, and twirled in one tie engagement…Owens is one of the miracles of modern baseball, hereabouts. When asked as to how he kept in such remarkable physical trim, Oscar replied: ‘My wife, regular hours, and abstinence from strength destroying habits, have kept me in the shape I am.”

Nunn said Owens’ wife served as the pitcher’s personal trainer, “using a special preparation on (his arm) after each game.”

Mid-season, George Scales had joined the Grays, moving Washington to first and moved Dolly Gray to the outfield where he supplanted Moddy.

 Of the new infield combination, he said: “Speed and intelligence together with a punch at the bat are rolled up” in the four.

The club won the Tri-State (Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia) Independent League. The Courier simply said the team had “played over 150 games this season and won more than 125.”

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