Tag Archives: Frank Grant

“Did They Send him any Flowers?”

13 Dec

In 1927, W. Rollo Wilson of The Pittsburgh Courier called Chappie Johnson “one of four men who have been real managers in colored baseball.”  Johnson, he explained, did his own “booking, financing, and directing,” in addition to managing his clubs on the field.

chappie

Chappie Johnson

Johnson, who began playing his playing career with the Page Fence Giants in 1895, was also a former player who didn’t insist that the game must have been better in his youth because that’s how he chose to remember it.  He told Wilson:

“I am an old-timer myself, but the game today would be too fast for the men who started out with me and before me.  These men now are more highly trained and the game has a greater technique.  Things are done now, plays are pulled that would never have been thought of in the nineties.  These days there is smart pitching and scientific batting, and a few years back base-running reached its highest development.  Frank Grant is the only batter of those ancient times who could hold his own now, I’ll venture to say.  George Wilson of the Page Fence Giants was the only pitcher who would have a look-in.  Then they made no study of the game of the players.  Now the boys learn to play while in grade schools and baseball has become a profession.  There were no smart managers then which is evidenced by the fact that none of the old boys is in harness.”

Johnson acknowledged that he was the exception—a player from his era now managed–but said that was because:

“I am also owner of the club.”

Johnson gave much of the credit for the progress the game had made in the previous two decades to John W. Connors, the restaurant owner who formed the Brooklyn Royal Giants in 1904 and had died on July 9, 1926 at 51 after suffering a stroke:

connors.jpg

John W. Connors

“The Negro baseball player lost his best friend when John Connors died last summer.  He was really the father of modern Negro baseball and did more for players than anyone else ever did or ever will.”

Johnson, who played for Connors, chided players for not recognizing the debt they owed the former owner (the inability of the press to figure out the correct spelling of Connors’ name is evident in this article as his name is spelled alternately Connor and Connors within the same paragraph—it also often appeared as Conner), :

“He made it possible for them to get a living wage and forced the other owners to meet his prices or lose their stars.  Did they say anything when he passed on?  Did they send him any flowers?  Not yet! Everyone who knew him loved him—save the players, and they should have been willing to give their life’s blood to keep him living.”

Conner’s death had been covered in the black press, but Johnson felt he had not received the credit he deserved:

“He started the Brooklyn Royal Giants as a sandlot team and named them for the Royal Cafe in Brooklyn and then made them a salaried outfit.”

Johnson said when Nat Strong took over ownership of the club in 1913:

“(T)he Royals never knew the glory that was theirs when Connors had them.”

Johnson credited Connors for stating the first Negro League games in the Polo Grounds “and the old Highlanders’ park on Broadway,” as well as being the only owner to provide his players with three uniforms, “including coats and sweaters.”

He said:

“John Connors wanted everyone to look nice and have the best of things to work with.”

Johnson said Connors, who owned a stake in the Bacharach Giants from 1919-1921, had intended to return to Negro League baseball:

“(B)ut death ruled otherwise.  Do you know that in New York he left three sets of uniforms already made up for his new team?”

Then, as was The Courier’s routine when interviewing past players, Wilson asked Johnson to name his all-time team:

“I’ll pick you one and will challenge anyone to name a better outfit. On this team of my choosing there will be nothing but smart men…Here’s your team and note that old-timers are few and far between:

Pitchers: George Wilson, Nip Winters, Phil Cockrell, Rats Henderson, Rube Foster, Joe Williams, Bullet Rogan

Catchers:  Biz Mackey, Bruce Petway, George Dixon

1B:  Ray Wilson

2B: John Henry Lloyd

SS: Dick Lundy

3B: Oliver Marcelle

Utility: John Beckwith

OF: Pete Hill, Oscar Charleston, Jesse Barber, Cristobal Torriente

poplloyd

John Henry Lloyd

Of Lloyd’s inclusion at second base rather than shortstop, Johnson said:

“John Henry Lloyd stands out as the greatest second baseman of all time, and he is supreme player at that bag yet.  Of course, he made his greatest reputation as a shortstop, but I always thought second base was here he belonged.”

Johnson invited any of The Courier’s readers to reach him through the paper if they wanted to argue his choices:

“Why, I could clean up the National League, the American League , the Epworth League with that bunch of ball hounds.

“G’bye.  I’ll be seein’ yuh.”

Cum Posey’s “All-Americans”

18 Nov

In 1937, Homestead Grays owner Cumberland Willis “Cum” Posey Jr. set out to name the all-time Negro League all-stars–his “All-Americans”– in The Pittsburgh Courier; six years later he expanded his “All-American” team and conceded that picking an all-time Negro League team was a nearly impossible task:

“Due to the changes in umpiring, parks, baseballs, ownership, in the last three decades, it is merely a guess when any of us attempt to pick an all-time All-American club.  Under any system we would hesitate to put ourselves on record as picking the club without placing some of the boys from the islands on the team.  We know some star players from Cuba, who played Negro baseball in the US and they cannot be ignored.”

Cum Posey

Cum Posey

Posey said no team would be complete without considering pitchers Jose Mendez, Eustaquio “Bombin” Pedroso, and Juan Padron, shortstop Pelayo Chacon, outfielders Cristobal Torriente and Esteban Montalvo and “(Martin) Dihigo, probably the greatest all-around player of any decade.”

Cristóbal Torriente

Cristóbal Torriente

“If one could be a spectator at an argument between those closely associated with baseball—fans, players, owners—he would be surprise at the differences of opinions.

Ted Page, who is now manager of Hillvue Bowling Alley (in Pittsburgh), and was formerly one of the star players of Negro baseball was mentioning one of the players of former years.  Ted contends (Chester) Brooks, one of the few West Indian (Brooks was said to hae been born in Nassau, Bahamas, but several sources, including his WWII Draft Registration and death certificate list his place of birth as Key West, Florida) players ever on the roster of an American baseball club was one of the real stars of all time.  Brooks, formerly of the Brooklyn Royal Giants, was probably the most consistent right hand hitter in the history of Negro baseball.  When the Homestead Grays were at odds with everyone connected with Negro Organized Baseball we tried to get Brooks on the Grays club.”

Chester Brooks

Chester Brooks

In his 1937 picks, Posey placed Brooks on his all-time all-star team as “utility” outfielder.

The 1937 team:

Manager:  C. I. Taylor

Coaches:  Rube Foster, Sam Crawford, and Chappie Johnson

Catchers:  Josh Gibson and Biz Mackey

Pitchers: Smokey Joe Williams, Dick Redding, Pedroso, Bullet Rogan, Satchel Paige, Dave Brown and Willie Foster

First Base:  Ben Taylor and Buck Leonard

Second Base: Sammy Hughes

Third Base: Jud Wilson

judwilson

Shortstop: John Henry Lloyd

Left Field:  Torriente

Center Field: Oscar Charleston

Right Field: Pete Hill

Utility:  Infield: Dick Lundy; Outfield: Brooks

Posey added several players for consideration in 1943, many who were largely forgotten by then:

Pitchers: Mendez, Padron

Catcher:  Bruce Petway, Wabishaw “Doc” Wiley

First Base: Leroy Grant, George Carr, Eddie Douglas

Second Base:  Frank Warfield, Bingo DeMoss, George Scales, John Henry Russell, Frank Grant

Bingo DeMoss

Bingo DeMoss

Third Base: Connie Day, Judy Johnson, Ray Dandridge, Dave Malarcher, Henry Blackmon, Walter Cannady, Billy Francis, Bill Monroe

Shortstop:  Willie Wells

Posey concluded:

“Too many outfielders to mention.  You have Dihigo, (Pee Wee) Butts, (Sam) Bankhead, Cannady (and) Monte Irvin to play in any position and nine hundred ninety-nine others.  Our personal preference for manager is C.I. Taylor, but what about Rube Foster?”

“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.

“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.