Tag Archives: Chicago Unions

“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.”

“Both Organizations enjoy an Unrivaled Reputation in the World of Colored Sport”

1 May

Named after the nation’s first black governor, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback of Louisiana, the Pinchbacks were the best black baseball team in New Orleans–and the entire South– during the 1880s.

In August of 1888 The Chicago Tribune said the Pinchbacks were coming to town:

“This is the first time a colored club from the South has visited Chicago.”

The team scheduled games with the Chicago Unions for August 21 and 22, then were traveling to St. Louis.

The paper said:

“The Pinchbacks are composed of the best colored players, and will certainly give the Chicago and St. Louis boys some trouble.”

The Tribune claimed Pinchbacks’ pitcher George Hopkins:

“(P)ossesses wonderful control over the ball, and in no game so far this season has he struck out less than ten men.”

There were wildly different estimates of the crowd.  The Chicago Herald said 300 fans saw the game, The Chicago Inter Ocean said 1500 turned out.

Despite the low estimate of the crowd, The Herald said there was great interest in the game

“No less than 150 boys or ‘kids’ surrounded the ball grounds as early as 2 o’clock (the game was scheduled for 3:45) and importuned every adult who approached with, ‘Say, Mister, won’t yer take me ter th game?’ For four or five innings those ‘kids’ took in the game through the knotholes and cracks in the fence, crouching or straining two or three deep…Finally they found an unguarded hole through which they slipped inside, and soon a policeman’s services had to be invoked to keep them from clustering on first base.”

The paper said another 50 or more fans viewed the game, “(F)rom the top of a Rock Island freight car a block distant.”

Among the fans, according to The Herald were “(A) score of colored ladies, 12 or 15 (Chinese) and 20 or 30 whites.”

The Tribune also provided as much coverage of the atmosphere surrounding the contest as the “Wildly exciting game,” at Chicago’s South Side Park, located at 33rd Street and Portland Avenue.

“Both organizations enjoy an unrivaled reputation in the world of colored sport, and the Pinchbacks are so highly esteemed in Louisiana that five carloads of gentlemen of their race came with them from the South.  The betting on the contest was unprecedentedly heavy, a colored saloonkeeper, whose probity is held beyond question, having in his pockets 124 dollars and 45 cents cash, a ring with a stone popularly believed to be an amethyst, two pencil cases, a watch chain, and a promissory note, being the stakes in various wagers made upon the result, together with a bundle of gold-topped umbrellas, and canes with silver heads and elaborate monograms.”

Fans of each team sat on opposite sides of the grandstand:

“The New Orleans contingent sat to the right of the stand, and the Chicago men to the left.  There was not much cordiality between them as hospitality demanded.  A notice board separated them.  It said: ‘Please do not throw cushions.’

“The Southerners, being men of means, had all provided themselves with cushions.  The Chicago men, being comparatively indigent, had to sit on the hard boards.”

One New Orleans fan threatened the umpire, who the paper described as “A gentleman of mild disposition.”

Unions’ manager and catcher Abe Jones admonished the fan:

 “’You won’t use any profane language on these grounds,’ cried Mr. Jones.

“’Go along,’ retorted the man…’you can’t hit the ball with a shovel.’

“On this, a partisan of the home team raised a cushion, which her purloined in the excitement from a Southerner, and brought it down with a resounding thwack on the head of the enthusiast, who was heard to exclaim as he sunk to rise no more, ‘Can’t hit the ball with a shovel.’”

Early in the game, the umpire caused another controversy when a Pinchback batter was called out on strikes:

“’Get a new umpire,’ cried the excursionists from New Orleans.  ‘The umpire’s all right,’ returned the Chicago men.”

The Pinchbacks persisted and:

“Two umpires were selected in place of the weakling whose infirmity of purpose had precipitated the crisis.”

With the new umpires in place, the paper said:

“And now the game became exciting.”

The Herald said the umpire, named John Nelson, was much more of a factor.  The paper claimed:

“He made several very bad decisions, every one favorable to the home nine.”

Entering the sixth inning the score was tied at one when a Chicago player doubled off of Hopkins.  The Tribune said:

“In an instant, the grandstand went mad.  One gentleman stood upon his head, his legs being supported by two friends, who held him in this uncomfortable position until somebody bowled him over with a cushion.  Another gentleman transformed himself into a windmill and swung his arms at incredible speed.  A third turned a succession of somersaults, landing at length in the midst of the New Orleans contingent, which, chafing at the prospect of defeat lifted him bodily and dropped him over the stand.”

The Union Giants scored three runs in their half of the sixth:

“The Southerners never recovered from the disaster.  One of their supporters, whose face was so freckled that it looked like fly-paper in a confectioner’s window, announced despairingly that all was over but the shouting.  The saloonkeeper began his distribution of silver-headed canes and gold-tipped umbrellas.”

The Union Giants won 4 to 1:

“Then the cushions flew.

“The women pressed around the Unions, even going to the length of embracing them.  Cigars were pressed upon the winners by their happy supporters.

“’It’s the pootiest game we’ve played for months,’ said one of them.

“And it was.”



Game 1 Box Score


The Pinchback came back the next day, beating the Unions 6-5. The Inter Ocean said 1800 were in attendance and  credited Hopkins, who pitched complete games in each game, with 37 strikeouts over 18 innings—a claim Abe Jones of the Unions disputed in a letter to the paper:

“There were ten strikeouts and the manager of the Pinchbacks (Walter L. Cohen) made a great mistake in his report of the game.  Hoping that he will be more truthful in his next.”

Two days later the paper published Cohen’s response:

“Jones (denied) the accuracy of the published score…I beg leave to state in justice to myself that the gentleman who scored the game was employed by Mr. Jones, and if there is a mistake it is him who is responsible and not me, for I had nothing to do with either the scoring or compiling of the score.”



Game 2 Box Score


The bad blood between the teams might explain why rather than playing a deciding game, The Tribune and The Herald reported that the Pinchbacks chose instead to play against a “picked nine” at Southwest Park on at the corner of Rockwell and Ogden, on their third day in Chicago.  They won 14-7.  Hopkins completed his third complete game in three days.  It was reported that he struck out 14.

The Pinchbacks swept a three-game series with the St. Louis West Ends at Sportsman’s Park before returning home. The New Orleans Times-Picayune said:

“The famous colored baseball club, the Pinchbacks, arrived home last evening after a successful sojourn in Chicago and St. Louis, where they bore away most of the honors.”



Advertisement for the Pinchbacks vs West Ends


The Pinchbacks returned to Chicago the following year, and in 1890, Hopkins left New Orleans and joined the Unions, which brought about the end of the team’s prominence in Southern black baseball.

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