Tag Archives: Joe Green

“A Blatantly-Cruel Job”

14 Jun

After James “Cool Papa” Bell was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974, “an old-time Negro League baseball star—one of the all-time greats for certain,” had a few thoughts on Negro Leaguers and the Hall of Fame.

The former player, who, “is not the beneficiary of big-time publicity,” talked to Andrew Spurgeon “Doc” Young of The Chicago Defender.

Bell

Young said:

“The old-timer knows he was better than many of the Negro League players who are being touted for that ‘special niche’ reserved in the Hall of Fame for unfortunate blacks—those superior blacks who were barred out of organized baseball by racial bigots.”

The “old-timer,” according to Young said the committee instituted by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1971 and chaired by Monte Irvin, “has done a terribly bad job…a ridiculous job, a blatantly-cruel job.”

His chief complaint:

“Andrew, ‘Rube’ Foster should have been the first man from Negro League ball admitted to the Hall of Fame. He did more for Negro League baseball than anyone else. He was outstanding on four levels: Player, manager, team operator, and league czar.”

Young recalled that Joe Green, who played with and against Foster during his nearly two decades with several Chicago clubs, told him:

“Joe Greene [sic] knew Rube Foster well and he told me: ‘When Rube Foster died, the league died with him.”

Foster

The “old-timer” said:

“I know something about Rube Foster first-hand. He was a great man…One reason why Rube hasn’t been honored is that the committee is dominated by Easterners, Foster’s greatest triumphs were achieved in the Midwest. It’s a damn shame, really.”

 Then, he called out the most recent honoree:

“It’s got to be a damn shame when players who were twice as good as Cool Papa Bell can’t make it. I played against Cool Papa Bell, and I know he wasn’t an all-around star. He could run fast but he couldn’t throw and couldn’t hit with power. I think Satch (Paige) helped to promote him into the Hall of Fame.”

Young would not share his opinion of Bell but said the “old-timer” was “essentially right” about the failings of the committee.

“’Sure, I’m right,’ the old-timer said. ‘Jelly Gardner was a better player than Cool Papa Bell. Martin Dihigo was one of the greatest players who ever lived. Oscar Charleston, Bullet Joe Rogan, Bingo DeMoss—all three of them were better than Cool Papa Bell.’

“’You should know,’ the writer said. ‘You played against them all.’

“’Absolutely,’ the old-timer said. ‘And he didn’t crack a smile.”

Young never revealed who the “old-timer” was.

Foster was finally inducted in 1981, after Charleston (1976) and Dihigo (1977). Rogan would not be honored until 1998. Gardner and DeMoss have remained overlooked for induction.

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.

Lost Advertisements–The Leland Giants’ New Ballpark

3 Apr

lelands

 

An advertisement for the opening of the Leland Giants’ newly refurbished ballpark, Normal Park, at 69th and Halsted Streets in Chicago, on May 15, 1910.  Just three weeks earlier, Cook County Judge Jesse Baldwin had given the team, managed by Andrew “Rube” Foster, the right to use the name Leland Giants.

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

May 15 would be the first regular season game for the Leland Giants after the split between Frank Leland and Foster over finances, which resulted in the formation of two separate teams–Leland’s team would be called the Chicago Giants.

Beauregard Fitzhugh Moseley, who had been one of Leland’s primary financial backers but sided with Foster in the split, became the business manager of the new club and represented the team in court.  Under Moseley and Foster’s leadership, the club retained many of the club’s stars and added John Henry Lloyd and Grant “Home Run” Johnson to the roster:

“To the most select audiences in the city.  Games with the best talent procurable.  Come and visit our park and see Rube Foster, the World’s Greatest Pitcher, assisted by (Frank) Wickware and (Charles) Dougherty, the season’s sensation, (Bruce) Petway and (Pete) Booker, the stars (Pete) Hill and (Andrew) Payne, outfield phenomenon, (Frank) Duncan, (Wesley) Pryor, (Fred) Hutchinson, Lloyd and Home Run Johnson, celebrities, who can only be seen on our diamond.”

1910 Leland Giants--Seated, left to right, Johnson, Booker, Payne, Strouthers, Duncan, Pryor; standing, left to right, Petway, Lloyd, Hill, Dougherty, Bill Lindsay, Wickware, and Foster.

1910 Leland Giants–Seated, left to right, Johnson, Booker, Payne, Strouthers, Duncan, Pryor; standing, left to right, Petway, Lloyd, Hill, Dougherty, Bill Lindsay, Wickware, and Foster.

While Foster and Moseley’s club consisted of several of the core players from the 1909 Leland Giants, who had won the championship of Chicago’s City League, the league’s members rejected their request for league membership in 1910;  Frank Leland’s Chicago Giants were accepted into the league and The Chicago Tribune said it would be the Chicago Giants who would “hoist the pennant” signifying the 1909 championship at their ballpark, Auburn Park, at 79th and Wentworth,  on May 15.

When the Chicago Giants played their first City League game on May 1, the Leland Giants were on what The Chicago Inter Ocean called “Moseley’s 9,000-mile trip;” a spring training tour that covered 9,073 miles and included games in 10 states.

While they were not members of the City League, the Leland Giants played games against league teams throughout the season; including the May 15 opener.

The Chicago Defender said:

“Those in doubt about the popularity and ability of the 1910 line-up of the Leland Giants, had that doubt dispelled last Sunday if they were at the giants’ new park…B.F. Moseley presented the entire line-up, together with Manager (William C. “Billy”) Niesen‘s team, the Gunthers (a member of the City League) to 4,000 enthusiastic fans, comprising some of the best citizens of Chicago.”

The Defender described Normal Park as “one of the swellest and best-equipped ballparks in the city…it is clean and accessible to the (street) car lines and a credit to the race.”

As part of the festivities, at Normal Park–and at roughly the same time Frank Leland was about to”hoist the pennant” at Auburn Park, Niesen, on behalf of the City League gave the Leland Giants their own championship banner:

“(Niesen) presented the pennant to Rube Foster, as the champions of the city, a march was then formed, headed by the First Regiment K of P (Knights of Pythius) Band to the rear of the grounds, where the pennant, a beautiful flag in maroon, properly lettered ‘Leland Giants, City Champions’ was hoisted and unfurled to the breeze amidst great applause and music.”

The Lelands beat the Gunthers 5 to 1 behind the pitching of Frank Wickware.

Frank Leland’s Chicago Giants, lacked some of the star power of 1909 and  finished in second place in the City League.

Foster and Moseley’s Leland Giants fared better.  The “best talent procurable” won 35 straight games until June 11; The Chicago Tribune said, “Lelands Defeated at Last–Gunthers break winning streak of colored players,” when, with Foster on the mound, they lost 3 to 1 to Niesen’s Gunthers.  It was a rare loss, the Leland giants won 106 games in 1910, with just seven losses.

Beauregard Fitzhugh Moseley

Beauregard Fitzhugh Moseley

The next season, with an infusion of cash from a new business partner, a white Chicago tavern owner, John Schorling–another former partner of Frank Leland, who was sometimes identified as Charles Comiskey‘s son-in-law–the Leland Giants became the Chicago American Giants and moved from Normal Park to “Schorling’s Park” at 39th and Wentworth, the former home of the Chicago White Sox.

 

 

 

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