Tag Archives: Chicago Union Giants

Cuban X-Giants In Washington D.C., 1901

7 Dec

xgiants

A 1901 advertisement for the Cuban X-Giants, managed by Soloman “Sol” White, in Washington D.C.  The team played the Capital City–described by The Washington Times as “a contingent of colored ball players of this city,” and the team representing the United States Census Bureau at American League Park.

Sol White

Sol White

 

According to the ad:

“The Cubans are known all over the United States and Cuba, having defeated such well-known clubs as the Cuban Giants of New York, Chicago Unions, Brother Hoods, Louisville, KY. Red Stockings, Norfolk, VA., Shelbournes of Atlantic City, and the San Francisco, of Havana Cuba.  The Cubans will have their own private band.”

The previous week, the X-Giants played an 11-inning tie with the Philadelphia Athletics at Columbia Park–although the Athletics three biggest stars, Napoleon Lajoie, Harry Davis and Lave Cross did not participate, The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “Both teams put up a splendid article of ball and the game resulted in one of the best that has been played on the grounds this season.”

The Philadelphia Times was even more enthusiastic:

“The game itself was beyond all doubt one of the greatest ever witnessed upon the local diamond.”

The 11-inning tie against the Athletics

The 11-inning tie against the Athletics

The ad said the club had won 114 games and lost just 22 in 1901, and described them as the “Colored Champion Baseball Club of the World.”  In both 1900 and 1901 the X-Giants and the Cuban Giants each claimed to be “Colored Champion.”

In addition to Sol White, the roster included, Robert Jordan, Ray Wilson, Clarence Williams, John Nelson, Danny McClellan, Will Jackson, Johnny Hill, Robert “Ginney” Robinson, and Charles “Kid” Carter.

The X-Giants won both of the advertised games.  The victory over the Capital City club was of such little note that no newspaper mentioned the score.  The Washington Colored American simply said the X-Giants “Played stars and circles around the Capital Cities.”

They also beat the Census Department 8 to 0.  The Washington Times said:

“The visitors had things their own way throughout the game, and at no time were they in danger of being defeated.  They had a twirler (McClellan) in the box that knew the fine points of the game.  He struck out nine of the localities and allowed but two of them to get the slightest semblance of a safe hit off his cannon ball delivery.”

Danny McClellan

Danny McClellan

The X-Giants beat one more local team, the Eastern Athletic Club, on October 9, and left the nation’s capital 117-22.

 

 

A Letter from the Front, 1918

25 May

James H. “Jimmy” “Captain” Smith played for three early Chicago-based Negro League teams—the Columbia Giants, the Union Giants, and the Leland Giants—in addition to stints with the Cuban X-Giants and St. Paul Gophers.  Already twenty-eight years old, and a Spanish-American War veteran, when he played for the Columbia Giants in 1902, Smith’s career was over by 1909.

In 1918, David Wyatt, a former Union Giants infielder turned sportswriter for The Chicago Defender, said of him:

 “Smith was a player who ranked with the very best of his time, and it is extremely doubtful if any of the present day stars can excel him in efficiency and all-around play.  Besides being a classy actor at the hot corner of the diamond, Smith was a natural leader of men.  He was captain of the Leland Giants of the season of 1905; under his guiding hand that team made a run of forty-seven consecutive wins; a record not surpassed or even equaled in the annuals of history of Colored baseball.”

Smith went to work for the post office after his retirement and rose to the rank of captain in the Eighth Illinois National Guard, a unit composed of black soldiers from the near South Side neighborhood then known as the Black Belt—now Bronzeville.  When the United States entered World War I, the eighth entered active duty as the 370th Infantry.

In April of 1918, the 370th arrived in France.  In August, Smith provided readers of The Defender with an update on the activities of the unit in a letter to Wyatt:

“Friend Davy:  Your letter reached me today, and to say I was glad to receive it, would be putting it mild indeed; it brought with it memories of the past and I could again see the old bunch—the first ‘Leland Giants,’ season in 1905—cavorting around at 79th and Wentworth, and making all the good teams sit up and wonder how it happened—a great bunch to think about (George) Taylor, (Nate) Harris in a class by themselves; peerless (William) Binga, that mighty outfield(Sherman) Barton, (Joe) Green, and (Dell) Mathews.”

[…]

“Then along comes the American Giants, Say, boy, it is great to read about them.  Well, the old 8th had a team while training in Texas and we cleaned up everything in the division; played two games with the (Houston) Black Buffalos and split even; lost the first 5-3, won the second 3-1.  This by the way, was our only losing game.  We have not played any since arriving overseas, as we have been on the go ever since landing.”

The 1905 Leland Giants--Jimmy Smith is 11.  Others mentioned in the letter: 1-Barton, 2-Mathews, 4-Taylor, 5-Harris, 6-Green, and 10-Binga

The 1905 Leland Giants–Jimmy Smith is 11. Others mentioned in the letter: 1-Barton, 2-Mathews, 4-Taylor, 5-Harris, 6-Green, and 10-Binga

Besides Smith, the unit’s team in Texas included at least two other Negro League players:  Harry Bauchman and Lemuel McDougal.

Smith then turned his attention towards the war:

“The censorship is too strict to permit of sending of much news; will save it up for you until I return.  We have been in the front line trenches and the boys stood it well.  We are lulled to sleep at night by the roar of the big guns; have witnessed several big air-fights and see them shooting at machines every day;  it is exciting, wonderful, and quite a thrilling spectacle to behold.  Now and then we sit in our dug-outs underground and try to imagine we are at 35th and State Streets, or the American Giants’ park….This is a very beautiful country, the people are in a class by themselves, that is as far a politeness goes, and many other respects.  It is a shame the way the towns have been bowled over by the Huns—ruins, ruins everywhere you look and then more ruins; it will take years to repair the damage.”

[…]

“All the boys join me in sending regards to all friends, fans, ballplayers and the people at large. Tell them we are over here to do our bit for democracy.  We intend to get results, and will not stop short of the winning goal.”

According to the book, “History of the American Negro in the Great World War,” by William Allison Sweeney:

“(On November 7) Company C, of the 370th, under the command of Captain James H. Smith, a Chicago letter carrier, signally distinguished itself by storming and taking the town of Baume and capturing three pieces of field artillery (and two machine guns).”

As a result of their actions, Company C earned the French Croix de Guerre.

The "Victory Monument" at 35th and King Drive in Chicago honors the service of the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard in World War I.

The “Victory Monument” at 35th and King Drive in Chicago honors the service of the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard in World War I.

Smith returned to Chicago where he continued to work for the post office, occasionally wrote baseball articles for The Defender, and rose to the rank of Colonel in the Illinois National Guard.  He died on Christmas Eve in 1960 at a veterans hospital near his second home in Michigan.

Charles Mills and the St. Louis Giants

25 Mar

The origin of the Negro League St. Louis Giants, one of the Western Independent Clubs, has become clouded by conflicting histories –some say Charles Alexander Mills started the team in 1909, others say he started it earlier; contemporaneous accounts in the Black press differ, but seem to indicate that Conrad Kuebler, a white businessman (and ballpark owner) operated the team beginning in 1906 or ’07, with Mills becoming involved with the club later (the team was almost universally referred to as Kuebler’s Giants before 1909, when Mill’s became involved, and references as late as 1915 confirm  that Kuebler still had an ownership stake in the team).

Mills’ background is equally as murky, born around 1879; some sources call him “a bank messenger,” others “a tavern owner.”  He did for a time own a bar, the Keystone Cafe and Cabaret at the corner of Compton and Lawton in St. Louis which he opened in 1915—The Freeman said “Hours of good entertainment and high-class wines…can always be found at the Keystone.”

In any case, Mills operated the team on a shoestring in 1909; The Freeman said in 1911:

“Two years ago, when baseball was emerging from the field of darkness into the dim light of athletic fame, the present St. Louis Giants baseball team sprang into existence.  At that time baseball was something new to the Negroes of St. Louis and hardly 100 patrons attended the games.  Players would receive about .50 or .60 each for their share of the gate receipts.

“Their baseball uniform consisted of different colors, cheap material—every man wearing a different suit and stockings of a different type, therefore presenting a grotesque appearance.”

Charles Alexander Mills

Charles Alexander Mills

Within a year, Mills had transformed the Giants.

David Wyatt, a former Chicago Union Giants player turned sportswriter wrote about the opening of the 1910 season at Kuebler’s Field at the corner of Broadway and Pope:

“The St. Louis Giants pulled off a demonstrative honor of Negro baseball, the like of which has never been equaled in the history of the game.

“A monstrous street parade in which automobiles, landaus, coupes and traps played a conspicuous part, started promptly from in front of the Missouri Negro Republican League quarters at 12 o’clock and passed over a route which included all the principal thoroughfares inhabited by the Negro in St. Louis.”

Wyatt praised Mills “the genial and hustling business manager” of the Giants, who “proved conclusively that he is a type of young business- man who is not only endowed with spirit and proclivities of the up-and-doing variety, but he is putting the same into circulation and getting results.”

As for the game, Giants pitcher Bill Gatewood pitched a no-hitter against the Louisville Stars; an 11-0 victory in front of “an assemblage of about five thousand fans.”

By 1911, Mills had signed some of the best players in the country to join Gatewood, including team captain Dick Wallace and three of the Taylor Brothers; Ben, “Candy” Jim and “Steel Arm” Johnny.  The Giants, according to The Freeman now had “as good athletes as ever trod American soil.”

Giant Captain Wallace

Giant Captain Dick Wallace

Mills’ Giants won the St. Louis City League in 1912 and ’13 but were generally a .500 team in games against other Western Independent Clubs. Mills aggressively solicited opponents and filled the Giants schedule with games against all comers between league games.

A 1910 ad for Mills' St' Louis Giants soliciting games.

A 1910 ad soliciting games for Mills’ St. Louis Giants

Despite maintaining a fairly strong following in the African-American community, the Giants were something of a nomadic club–according to reports of games in The Freeman, The Chicago Defender and The St. Louis Argus the team played “home” games in no less than seven ballparks during Mills’ tenure.

The Giants continued operating as an independent team (although they seemed to have disbanded for most of 1917 and ’18— tensions stemming from the East St. Louis race riots in May and July of 1917 were probably a contributing factor).

In 1920, Mills was present at the YMCA on 18th and Vine in Kansas City for Rube Foster‘s meeting to form the Negro National League; his Giants finished 6th in 1920 and 3rd in 1921 (Giants’ center fielder Oscar Charleston hit–depending on the source– .433 or .444 that season).

Mills was either ousted or sold his interest in the team (depending on the source) after the 1921 season, and new owners Dr. Sam Sheppard (variously spelled Shepard, Sheperd, and Sheppard) who had played for the New York Gorhams in 1887 and Dick Kent renamed the team the St. Louis Stars.

Mills died in St. Louis in 1944; his role as a pioneer of black baseball so forgotten that as late as 1994, James A Riley in The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues refers to Mills as “A white businessman.”

“A Historical Account of a Great Game of Ball”

5 Mar

The headline above appeared in 1907 above an article written by Frederick North Shorey in The Freeman regarding a series between Andrew “Rube” Foster’s Leland Giants and Mike Donlin’s All-Stars “an aggregation composed of such noted players as Mike Donlin, Jake Stahl, Jimmie Ryan and Jimmy Callahan, probably the best semi-professional team in the country.”

Shorey said the series at South Side Park “exceeded in interest to the people it attracted anything that took place between the White Sox and Cubs last fall (1906 World Series).”

Rube Foster beat the Donlin All-Stars 3-1 in the first game, allowing only three hits:

“Rube Foster is the pitcher of the Leland Giants, and he has all the speed of (Amos) Rusie, the tricks of a Radbourne, and the heady coolness and deliberation of a Cy Young.  What does that make him? Why, the greatest baseball pitcher in the country; that is what the best ballplayers of the white persuasion that have gone up against him say.”

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

Foster was so important to his fans, Shorey said:

“If it were in the power of the colored people to honor him politically or to raise him to the station to which they believe he is entitled, Booker T. Washington would have to be content with second place.”

The Chicago Tribune said of Foster’s domination of the All-Stars:

lelandsvsdonlins

Back to the series, and back to Shorey:

“While the all-stars were confident in their ability to win, several of the old players, including Mr. Donlin himself, who have known of the prowess of Mr. Foster…knew that it was by no means a certainty…but they had hopes that the colored team behind him might do something to undo the efforts of the twirler.

Mike Donlin

Mike Donlin

Shorey said the all-stars were over matched:

“The colored men set a new pace for base running, while foster’s cool, deliberate pitching was too much for the old-time players on Donlin’s team.  Both teams put up brilliant fielding games.”

Foster pitched in four games in the series; he won all four.

David Wyatt–who had been a teammate of Foster’s with the Chicago Union Giants in 1902, and who in 1920 was asked by Foster to help draft the constitution of the Negro National League—also wrote about the series in The Freeman:

“All the baseball critics in the city were out to look the Lelands over, many under the impression that they were overrated.  The most interested of the number was Mr. Comiskey, owner of the white Sox…After witnessing the first game the white sox boss said if it were possible he would have annexed the signature of at least three of the boys to contracts, and he was so enthused over the fast, snappy work of the Lelands that he had his world’s champions to lay over one day in Chicago to watch the boys play.”

Wyatt had higher hopes for “Baseball as the common leveler” in general and the series specifically:

“There was no color line drawn anywhere; our white brethren outnumbered us by a few hundred, and all bumped elbows in the grand stand, the box seats and bleachers; women and men alike, all whetted freely with one another on the possible outcome of the series, the effect it would have upon the future of the negro in baseball, the merits of the different players etc…”

Foster’s heroics, Wyatt’s hopefulness, Comiskey’s words and Chicago’s enthusiasm were, of course, not enough to change the status quo; regardless of the “Great game of ball,” played at South Side Park in that 1907 series, the color line would remain intact for four more decades.

David Wyatt

David Wyatt