Tag Archives: Cuban Giants

The Shooting of “The Ohio Whirlwind”

18 Jul

In May of 1896 Cuban Giants, owner John M. Bright sent a letter to several East Coast newspapers.  Bright was writing to “set the public right” regarding his team—and to gloat

Two months earlier a letter had been published from Edward B. Lamar in The New York Sun which said, “The original Cuban Giants will be known this season as the X Cuban Giants.”

By the beginning of the season, the team was called the Cuban X-Giants and consisted of most of the stars of Bright’s 1895 Cuban Giants who had defected to play instead for Bright.

Despite the star power, the X-Giants got off to a poor start, dropping several games to minor league clubs

Bright’s letter informed fans that:

“Owing to the fact that there is a club (colored) calling themselves the Cuban (X) Giants, and getting most terribly defeated everywhere, and when defeated they send in their scores, calling themselves the Cuban Giants, thereby injuring the Genuine Cuban Giants great reputation.”

Bright claimed the “Genuine Cuban Giants” had “won seventeen out of the last twenty-three games played.”

Among the players mentioned in Bright’s letter was “The Ohio Whirlwind;” pitcher Charles “Doc” Howard.

The earliest reference to Howard’s baseball career —he was born Charles Allen in East Liverpool, Ohio, and adopted by his cousin’s family as an infant–is found in The Sporting Life in 1893.  The paper’s East Liverpool correspondent wrote: “Charles Howard, our famous colored player, has an offer from the Cuban Giants” for the 1894 season.

Howard pitched, and occasionally played outfield, for the Cuban Giants from 1894 to 1897 and was one of the few members of the 1895 team that chose not to follow Lamar and stayed loyal to Bright—he eventually did join the X-Giants as a pitcher and outfielder in 1898 and 1899.

The East Liverpool Evening Review said Howard was set to return to the X-Giants in the spring of 1900 when he became ill:

“The many friends of Charles Howard, the colored ball player, are taking subscription to send him to the hospital.  It is feared he has consumption.”

It is unclear whether it was tuberculosis or another illness—rheumatism, among others, was mentioned– that kept Howard sidelined all season, and spent most of the summer hospitalized in Pittsburgh.   A “benefit game and field day” was organized in his honor in August, the paper called it “an immense success” which raised the sum of $135.

Charles "Doc" Howard

Charles “Doc” Howard

Howard recovered, but never played professionally again; he did make a comeback with an integrated semi-pro club in Liverpool in July of 1901.  The Evening Review said of his performance in one game:

“(Howard) had the players of the opposing aggregation tearing great swaths in the atmosphere in a vain effort to connect with the ball.”

He continued to play occasionally with local teams and worked as an umpire in local leagues through 1903.  Reports in The Evening Review that he would be re-joining the Cuban Giants in 1902 and 1903 proved untrue.

In 1904 Howard was working as a porter at Guthrie’s saloon in East Liverpool.  On the evening of August 13, he arrived at the home of his adoptive parents shortly after midnight, when, according to The Evening Review:

“(He was) Murdered with a revolver in the hands of Lottie Skiles, a well-known character of questionable reputation.  The popular colored man was killed instantly in his home (in the early morning hours of August 14—his death certificate lists the date of death as August 13)”

The two lived together at the house, and, according to the paper “The killing of Howard was the result of a long series of quarrels between himself and the woman.”

It was not lost on the press that Lottie Skiles—whose given name was Vincent Lottie Skiles– was white.  And despite her “questionable reputation” and Howard’s status in the community as a “popular colored man,” the local paper allowed the shooter to get a sympathetic airing of her story into print less than 48 hours after the shooting:

“Lottie does not attempt to deny that she killed Howard, but does insist that it was done in self-defense.”

The paper said, “she broke down and cried bitterly” when she found out Howard was dead.”

She told the paper the two had been living together for four months, and called Howard “The most jealous man I ever saw.”

She said the fight that evening started when Howard saw her sitting with another man at a Chinese restaurant.   She said when they arrived home, “he flew at me and struck me on the back of the neck with the flat of his hand.”  She said she told Howard “If I were a man you would not dare strike me in that manner.”  At that point, she said Howard went for a gun on a shelf behind her:

“I was afraid he would kill me and I grabbed the gun before he got to it.  I turned as quickly as I could and pulled the trigger.”

Skiles told the paper neither her nor Howard had been drinking.  The paper said the coroner had concluded that Howard had “started to turn and flee” before the shot was fired.

The paper also said, “(Skiles’) story of the affair is generally believed,” and said

Two days after the shooting Skiles was charged with murder.  When she appeared in court, The Review said:

“She had had a refreshing night’s sleep and looked exceedingly bright for one who has passed through such a tragic scene.”

The paper was clearly impressed with the defendant:

“She was well dressed, wearing a black straw hat, covered with a pretty blue veil, giving to her a rather dashing appearance.  She wore a gray skirt and jacket and patent leather shoes that were purchased for her by the man she killed.”

Lottie Skiles

Lottie Skiles

Everyone who testified at the preliminary hearing agreed on one thing: the relationship was extremely volatile, and at times violent. Howard’s adoptive parents refused to admit that the couple lived together in the room in their home—while Ohio overturned their anti-miscegenation law in 1887 the paper said if cohabitating, the two would have “lived together unlawfully…for immoral purposes,” suggesting that a local ordinance was still in place.  The police officer who took Skiles into custody told the court that she used to a racist epitaph to describe Howard.

Skiles went on trial on December 5th, 1904.  Her attorney said the shooting was the culmination of long-term abuse at the hands of Howard and described a number of alleged incidents.

As for the events of the evening of the shooting, Skiles said in the newspaper interview after the shooting, Howard struck her once on the neck with “the flat of his hand;” the defense now claimed Howard had delivered several “sledgehammer blows” earlier in the evening, and a “powerful blow on the neck” in the room.

The story from the defense of how the fatal shot was fired was also very different from Skiles’ newspaper interview, and not in keeping with the findings of the coroner.  Her attorney told jurors:

“She was afraid of his next move and grabbing the revolver from the shelf intended to throw it at him and run.  He grabbed her by the arm and waist and in the tussle the gun was discharged.”

The prosecution said despite her statement to the contrary, Skiles had been drinking that night, while Howard hadn’t had a drink “for six weeks,” and produced a witness who claimed Skiles told her she would kill Howard “if she ever caught him with another girl.”

Skiles took the stand in her own defense.  She repeated the story of long-term abuse her attorney had told in his opening argument.  She also gave a version of the story of the shooting that was closer-–but not the same in every detail she claimed for example, she planned to “throw the gun under the table,” not at him–to the version her attorney gave in opening arguments than it was to the one she gave to the paper in August.

The Evening Review, and the prosecution, never mentioned the inconsistencies in her story, but the paper said of her testimony:

“Her story very much impressed the crowded courtroom, which at times was a solid mass of humanity.  Though she had shown some signs of nervousness prior to this time, she apparently realized the need of absolute self-control and it was stated by a jurist of many years’ experience that no woman charged with the same offense ever acquitted herself in better form.”

The jury returned after eight hours.  Lottie Skiles was found not guilty.  The Evening Review said initially five jurors voted to convict her of the lesser included charge of manslaughter, but after several ballots voted to acquit.

Skiles, just 21-years-old on the night she shot Howard, had been arrested several times, and at the age of 15, she was held in custody along with three other suspects after a man was shot in East Liverpool—although she was never charged in the incident. Her attorney told The Evening Review, his client vowed, “I’ll never go back to that life again.”

The following day she told the paper she was finished with her “old haunts” and finished with East Liverpool.

Lottie Skiles appears to have kept her word about staying out trouble; she relocated to Youngstown, but eventually returned to East Liverpool, where she died in 1947.

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.

 

 

John Milton Dabney

15 Jun

Born in November of 1867 in Richmond, Virginia, the son of former slaves, John Milton Dabney spent his childhood working for his father who became a successful restaurant owner and caterer in Richmond after the Civil War.

In 1885, Dabney went to work at the Argyle Hotel in Babylon, Long Island.  He joined the hotel’s baseball team (ostensibly composed of the hotel’s service workers, but some of the best amateur players on the East Coast were recruited for the team by head waiter Frank P. Thompson, as Dabney likely was), intended to provide entertainment for the summer tourists.

The Argyle Hotel Athletics fared well against the strongest amateur teams in the area and caught the eye of a white promoter, John F Lang.   Under Lang’s management, the team began touring that summer as the first professional African-American baseball team, the Cuban Giants.  The following year, Lang sold the team to Walter Cook.

John Milton Dabney

Initially a left fielder, Dabney also pitched and played first base for the Cuban Giants in 1885-86 and for the Cuban X-Giants in the 1890s.

Dabney went to work for the United States Postal Service and played baseball in Richmond for decades–he also played football for the Richmond Athletic Club and worked as a boxing referee.  According to the Baltimore Afro-American, “No amateur team in Richmond was complete unless Milton Dabney played first base.”

In 1897, Dabney  captained the Eclipse, a team based in Richmond, The Richmond Planet said:

“Dabney, who will play first base is perhaps one of the most celebrated colored players in the United States  He has played on clubs all over the country, notably with the Cuban Giants  He knows the game from A to Z and can be depended on at all times”

While Milton Dabney was a pioneer of black baseball, his older brother Wendell Phillips Dabney was a pioneer in another field.  An author, composer, and publisher of The Enterprise, and later The Union,  Cincinnati-based black newspapers, The Chicago Defender called him “The dean of Negro journalists.” he was one of the most prominent African-American newspaper publishers and political activists of the first half of the 20th century.

Wendell Phillips Dabney

Wendell Phillips Dabney

Dabney eventually went to live in Newark, New Jersey, where his son owned a funeral home, he died in a nursing home there in November of 1967, four days short of his 100th birthday.  Until his death, he was oldest surviving retired postal carrier in the country, and the last surviving member of black baseball’s first professional team.

“Yale’s Crack Baseball Pitcher”

23 May

Herbert Ovid Bowers followed a legend at Yale.

From 1886 through 1890 pitcher Amos Alonzo Stagg had led the Yale baseball team to the championship of the Ivy League (post graduate students didn’t lose eligibility in the 1800s).  He was a highly sought after pitching prospect, but Stagg, a devout Presbyterian, turned down multiple offers to play professionally; in his 1927 biography, “Touchdown!” he said:

“There was a bar in every ball park, and the whole tone of the game was smelly.”

Amos Alonzo Stagg, right, with Yale catcher Jesse Dann

Amos Alonzo Stagg, right, with Yale catcher Jesse Dann

Bowers was born June 2, 1867, in Manchester, Connecticut and entered Yale in 1889 as a sophomore after teaching school for two years in Hartford—he also played for a semi-pro team in Plainville, Massachusetts.

He joined the baseball team in 1890—Stagg’s final season–as an outfielder and pitched on a limited basis during the early part of 1891 when pitcher William Dalzell was tapped as Stagg’s replacement.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“Dalzell promised much, but failed.”

The Pittsburgh Dispatch said Dalzell became ill during the 1891 season and “Bowers was literally forced into the box,” where he “demonstrated that he was the best pitcher in college.”

The New York Herald said:

“Yale would not be a factor in baseball this year, they said.  But when Bowers popped up in the box and began pitching ball (Yale fans) changed their wail to a hurrah…He puts up a great game and is as cool in the box as the famous Stagg himself.”

The 5’ 9” righthander led Yale to a 24-9 season.  The Tribune said:

“Bowers is strategic and cool but not very fast, and weighs but 150 pounds.  He is a good general ball-player, can run bases fast, and has extra good command of the ball.  With twenty-five pounds more weight and the extra strength that goes with it Bowers would be a phenomenal pitcher.  As it is he is a good and valuable one.”

Herbert Ovid Bowers

Herbert Ovid Bowers

On June 13 Bowers and Yale lost 5 to 2 to Princeton at the Manhattan Athletic Club in New York, losing the league championship.

Yale was just 18-16 in 1892.  Bowers took a no-hitter into the ninth inning during a victory over Princeton, but he gave up a walk and a two-out hit, losing the no-hitter and shutout, but winning the game 3 to 1.  Yale met Harvard for a three-game series in June which was to decide the 1892 championship.

Harvard took the first game in Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 23, beating Bowers 5 to 0.  Five days later in New Haven, Connecticut Bowers beat Harvard 4 to 3, setting up a final game to decide the championship.

The Associated Press said:

“The result of to-day’s game leaves the championship undecided.  Yale tried to arrange for a game on neutral grounds July 4, but Harvard refused, and as both colleges have closed, the championship will remain unsettled.  The Yale alumni are celebrating on a grand scale.”

Some members of the press anointed Bowers the next great pitching star.  The New York Herald called him:

“Yale’s crack baseball pitcher, who by many is counted the superior of even the famous Stagg.”

Sam C. Austin, the sporting editor of “The Police Gazette” said Bowers lacked the size to throw hard, but:

“He relies mainly upon his ability to deliver puzzling curves that disconcert the batsman…He has great command over a ball, and can use drops, in and out shoots, and curves that would puzzle a professional to hit.”

The New York Evening World said, “It is said that the New Yorks are after Bowers, the famous Yale pitcher.”

Bowers at Yale

Bowers at Yale

After his  graduation, and despite the accolades, Bowers, who played in a semi-pro league in Vermont after the 1891 and ’92 seasons, chose to enroll in law school at Yale.  He played for the law school team in 1893, and in June pitched the greatest game of his life.  The New York Sun said:

“Pitcher Bowers of the Yale Law School team further added to the excellent record he has made by pitching great ball against the Cuban Giants last Monday at Brattleboro, VT.  He did not allow the colored players a single safe hit, and only twice did they knock the ball outside the diamond.  Both times the balls were flies.  This is the first time that the Cuban Giants have been so retired.  Bowers was obliged to pitch part of the time with a wet ball as it rained during a portion of the game.”

Bowers also had two doubles, scored two runs and drove in two more.  Yale won 4-2–the Cubans scored two runs in the seventh after a walk to Cubans’ second baseman Frank Grant, followed by a three-base error on a throw from Yale’s third baseman on a ground ball hit by Abe Harrison, the Cubans shortstop.  Harrison scored a ground out.

Frank Grant, Cuban Giants

Frank Grant, Cuban Giants

 

Bowers also pitched, played outfield, and captained the 1893 Yale club that won the eight-team “World’s Fair Intercollegiate Baseball Tournament,” which was organized, in part, by Bowers’ former teammate Stagg the University of Chicago’s football and baseball coach.   Yale was 4-1, including a 9 to 0 victory over Amherst in the championship game.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“After the game the Yale team was called into the grand stand and there presented with the magnificent cup given by the university Club to the winning team.  The presentation was made by Mayor (Carter) Harrison and at the close of his remarks the Yale University yell was given.”

After graduating from law school, Bowers appeared to be following in Stagg’s footsteps again, when he was hired to coach the baseball team at Oberlin College in Ohio.  After victories over the University of Illinois (13 to 1) and Michigan (17 to 3), The Associated Press said:

“Coach Bowers has done wonders for Oberlin’s batting and team work and the boys are making a fine record.”

Despite his success at Oberlin, Bowers did not return the following season, and just short of his 28th birthday signed his first professional contract—his career lasted just two games.

He started two games for the Hartford Bluebirds in the Connecticut State League, losing both and posting a 5.14 ERA; he gave up 32 hits in just 14 innings.  He appeared to have lost the “curves that would puzzle a professional to hit.”

After his release, Bowers was not out of work for long.

In August The Manchester Herald said Bowers “once the crack twirler of the Yale team,” had been appointed judge of the newly formed Manchester Connecticut Town Court.  With that, Bowers went on a different course than Stagg.  He was a judge and politician—he served two terms in the Connecticut General Assembly—until his death in Manchester on November 30, 1927.

Such Clanging of Bells and Blowing of Horns has never been Equaled in Athletic Park”

24 Feb

From the formation of the Cuban Giants as the first professional black team in 1885 until the establishment of the Negro National League in 1920 there were many attempts to form an organized league; and numerous advocates for the idea.

Lester Aglar Walton, editor of The New York Age, believed the color line was borne solely out of “the white man’s fear in open competition,” but also understood that the situation was not likely to change.

Lester Aglar Watson

Lester Aglar Watson

In 1911, Walton thought the conditions for starting a league were right, were right based on a three-game series in June—the Chicago Leland Giants traveled to St. Louis for a three-game series with Charles Alexander Mills’ St. Louis Giants:

“The figures, giving the attendance at the three games played, are interesting and furnish those who have been agitating the organization of a colored baseball league much cause for jubilation.  They are now enthusiastically pointing to figures to back up the assertion they have been making all along that a colored baseball league would pay;  also that the fans would give it their loyal support.”

Charles Alexander Mills,

Charles Alexander Mills

The Freeman described the atmosphere at the first game:

“The Chicago Giants entered from the south entrance, headed by Captain Pettis (William “Bill” “Zack” Pettus), and followed closely by the entire squad, clad in blue caps and white uniforms.  The contrast was rich.  At the site of the Chicago boys the fans cut loose, and such cheerings in respect would be fit for a king.  Ten minutes later Captain (Richard Felix (Dick) Wallace and his squad emerged from the club house, all in a quick step, and when they came in view of the vast throng such clanging of bells and blowing of horns has never been equaled in Athletic Park.”

Bill Pettus

Bill Pettus

Walton noted that the opening game, played on June 21, drew 2,200 fans.  On the same day in Cincinnati, just 700 attended a Reds game against the St. Louis Cardinals.  The following day 2,500 hundred watched the two teams play, and about 2,600 attended on Friday.  The St. Louis Browns, playing the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday and Thursday at Sportsman’s Park, drew smaller crowds both days:

“It should not be overlooked that the fans turned out in goodly numbers to see the St. Louis Giants and the Chicago Giants on week days.  On Sundays it is not unusual for the St. Louis Giants to play before 5,000 people.  It is, however, generally admitted that strong colored teams are good Sunday attractions, but the difference of opinion has invariably come up over the question of whether the fans would put in their appearance in sufficient numbers on week days.

“What is also considered significant by those who favor the formation of a colored baseball league is that with few exceptions the crowds were composed of colored people, which proves conclusively that members of the race will support colored clubs when they put up a good article of ball.  The same can be said of white fans, and quite often, for instance, in greater New York, more whites attend baseball matches between colored clubs than colored.”

Walton said it was always understood that New York and Chicago could support a member club in an organized league, but there was “doubt as to whether devotees of the national game in St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Louisville etc…would turn out in sufficient numbers to ensure the players a nice check when payday rolled around.”  The series, he said, erased some of those doubts:

“Cincinnati, Louisville, Baltimore and other cities considered can make as good a showing as St. Louis.  Furthermore…these cities have but one big league team, while St. Louis has two, a condition which it is claimed, would argue in favor of the respective colored teams securing a larger white patronage.”

The St. Louis Giants swept the three-game series—winning all three in the bottom of the ninth inning; including a 2 to 1 victory behind “Steel Arm” Johnny Taylor over “Smokey Joe” Williams in game two—Taylor also won game one in relief.

The line scores from the three games

The line scores from the three games

Despite the enthusiasm, three excellent, well–attended games, and the resulting optimism as a result of the attendance in St. Louis during three days in June of 1911, an organized black league was still nearly a decade away.

“What Earnest, Active and Capable Team Workers those Cuban Giants are”

19 Feb

The Middle States League lasted just one season, 1889.  Not part of the National Agreement, and intended as an eight-team league, the circuit included, at various times, thirteen teams representing cities in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

The league became integrated with the inclusion of the Cuban Giants of Trenton, who had become the first salaried African-American team four years earlier, and later their biggest rivals, the New York Gorhams (the Gorhams joined the league late, and were expelled in August—they played their home games in Easton, Pennsylvania and Hoboken, New Jersey).

Despite their membership in the league, and the Gorhams’ calling Easton their part-time “home,” both black teams were refused hotel accommodations in Easton during the season.

The relationship between the Cuban Giants and the rest of the league was contentious.  In May, The Philadelphia Inquirer said the league’s board of directors charged Cuban Giants’ Manager Stanislaus Kostka (variously nicknamed Cos, S.K., Siki) Govern with violating the league’s $75 a month salary cap by using “players who have not signed regular contracts,” and not using league’s official ball in games.  The Inquirer said:

“It appears that the colored club has been running things to suit its own sweet will.”

The paper said after a two-hour meeting Govern promised “to do better in the future.”

govern

S. K. Govern

The following month the league denied rumors in The Inquirer that “the Cuban Giants were to be forced out on account of their color.”  The paper said the August league meeting “was long and mainly occupied by debates between Harrisburg and the Cuban Giants.”

Most of the teams were financially troubled from the outset—at one point  a York, Pennsylvania hotel proprietor confiscated the uniforms of the Shenandoah club after the team failed to pay their bill—Shenandoah lasted just 15 games, joining the league in mid July and disbanding August 6.

1889middlestates

Advertisement for August, 1889 games between the Lebanon Grays and the Cuban Giants, and Gorhams. The Gorhams were expelled from the league several days after these games were played.

The Harrisburg Ponies were the only team in the league that made money—the Gorhams, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, had “few paying crowds” in Easton.  On August 21 The Inquirer said their “receipts did not amount to more than $20.”  The following day they were unable to pay the Hazelton team the guarantee for a scheduled game and were expelled from the league.  The Gorhams took to the road and barnstormed for the remainder of the year.

The Cuban Giants didn’t fare much better financially.  Owner John Bright, according to The Harrisburg Telegraph, needed to schedule his team for more than 60 exhibition games in addition to the 74 league games in order to turn a profit.

No one who followed the league, including Henry Chadwick, who watched the Cubans Giants play in August, had any doubt which team was the best in the Middle States League.  In The Brooklyn Eagle, Chadwick, “The Father of Baseball,” wrote:

“What earnest, active and capable team workers those Cuban Giants are.  In fact, I would rather see them play in a game where they had work to do to win than see half the (National) League or American Association teams play.  They are well up in the points and they play with a spirit and vigor, and with a good nature withal which makes their field work very attractive.  They have very intelligent and gentlemanly young official (manager) in Mr. McGovern [sic].  That catcher of theirs—(Arthur) Thomas—is a character, and they have an excellent strategic pitcher in (William) Seldon, and as for (Frank) Grant, he is at least a second (Fred) Dunlap on the field.  In fact, did not see a weak spot in the team in this game.”

Frank Grant

Frank Grant

Despite playing more than 60 extra games over the course of the season, the Cuban Giants managed to stay neck-and-neck with the Harrisburg Ponies all year.   In mid-September, with just four games remaining on the schedule, and with the league’s future in serious doubt, the Cuban Giants, just .001 behind the Ponies chose to cancel their last four games.  The Chambersburg Repository said the cancellations allowed “the colored club an opportunity to make a trip through New York State.”

The championship was awarded to the Ponies (who added two more victories after the Cuban Giants departed for New York).

The final official standings:

Harrisburg Ponies 64-19 .771

Cuban Giants 55-17 .764

Cuban Giants owner John Bright protested the final standings and took his case to the press.  In a long letter, published in The New York Sun, and other papers, Bright said his team “justly and honestly won” the pennant.  He claimed that Harrisburg was incorrectly awarded three victories for forfeited games–one against the Gorhams, when neither team showed up for the game, and two games against Wilmington after that team had disbanded.

Bright also charged that Harrisburg also lost a September game to Lebanon, and after the fact “Harrisburg turns it in as an exhibition game.”  He said his team was stripped of two victories in games where the official league ball was not used, while there were two games  they lost while playing with the wrong ball “but much to our amazement, only one game was not counted.”  Additionally, Bright claimed the league failed to award the Cuban Giants two games won against the Hazelton team.

Bright said the league standings should have been:

Cuban Giants 57-16 .780

Harrisburg Ponies 61-20 .753

Bright concluded:

“So any fair-minded person can see at a glance that the Cuban Giants are the real champions.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer initially seemed to side with the Cuban Giants.  They printed Bright’s charges and quoted an unnamed “prominent manager of the Middle States League” who said:

“The Giants are right in a number of their claims.  I never could see upon what grounds the Harrisburg club could claim a number of the games complained of, more than by the bulldogging tactics that they always employed throughout the season.”

The Philadelphia Press was squarely in the Harrisburg camp.  The paper referred to Bright’s “several foolish claims for the pennant,” and provided a forum for league president William Voltz-who was also the paper’s baseball editor–to respond.  Voltz called Bright’s charges “unwarranted and untrue.”  The league president/baseball editor also claimed the Cuban Giants still owed the league money and that the proper time for bright to protest the championship would be at the league meeting in December.

Newspaper reports of the December meeting make no mention of any representative of the Cuban Giants appealing the championship.

Harrisburg remains the official champion of the 1889 Middle States League

The league was reconstituted as the Eastern Interstate League for 1890.  The nucleus of the Cuban Giants jumped from Bright’s club and joined the league as the York Colored Monarchs—Frank Grant and Clarence Williams joined the previously all white Harrisburg Ponies.  The six-team league struggled, quickly became a four-team league, and folded all together in July.

Clarence Williams

Clarence Williams

York was leading the Eastern Interstate League when it disbanded.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #3

26 Apr

Tools of ignorance

As catchers began to wear more equipment the was widespread disapproval.  In 1884 The New Haven News said:

“With his frontal liver-pad, his hands cased in thick gloves and the familiar wire helmet on his head, the average baseball catcher looks for all the world like an animated combination of a modern bed-bolster and a medieval knight.”

Roger Bresnahan, 1907, more than 20 years after catcher's began to look like "medieval knights."

Roger Bresnahan, 1907, more than 20 years after a catcher began to look like a “medieval knight.”

Cuban Giants Challenge

In August of 1888, The Freeman declared the Cuban Giants “virtually the champions of the world.”

The paper said that the first professional black baseball team, were willing to take on any ballclub, but:

“The St. Louis Browns, Detroits (Wolverines) and Chicagos (White Stockings) afflicted with Negrophobia and unable to bear the odium of being beaten by colored men, refused to accept their challenge.”

1887-88 Cuban Giants--"virtually the champions of the world."

1887-88 Cuban Giants–“virtually the champions of the world.”

The Elizabeth Resolutes

The Elizabeth (NJ) Resolutes were one of the worst professional teams of baseball’s infancy.  The 1873 National Association team only played 23 games, losing 21, and from the beginning of the season, the franchise was on the verge of demise.

The New York Herald summed up the general feeling about the team in an August article:

“The Resolute Club, whom everyone hoped had disbanded, as was reported, put in an appearance on the Union grounds yesterday afternoon and played the (Brooklyn) Atlantics, committing, as usual, about five hundred errors.”

It was the first, and last, game on the mound for pitcher Len Lovett.

The Herald concluded:

“The game was a most wretched affair.”

dougallison

Catcher Doug Allison who hit .300, and his brother Art, who hit .320, were rare bright spots for the resolutes.