Tag Archives: Sam Apperious

“Apperious is a high-toned Man”

8 Jan

After igniting a controversy in Vermont’s Northern League in 1905 when he refused (as he had in college in 1903) to appear on the field with William Clarence Matthews, Sam Apperious returned to Alabama in 1906.

He played centerfield for the Montgomery Senators in the Southern Association.  The Washington Post said in March “it is said that Connie Mack has arranged to try him out with the Athletics next fall.”

Sam Apperious

Sam Apperious

The Atlanta Journal said he was in Alabama, and not the big leagues, by choice:

“Apperious is a high-toned man, a graduate of Georgetown, and plays ball for his home town because he likes the game.  He is not in the strict sense a professional, for he declines to go the big league, where he could easily get a much larger salary.”

In Montgomery Apperious became part of the biggest controversy of the Southern Association’s 1906 season—the league had no shortage of controversies each season.

It started with a fly ball to Apperious in an otherwise uneventful 9-0, June 10 victory over Charlie Frank’s Pelicans in New Orleans.  The Journal said:

“It sailed so high in the air that Apperious, who caught it, concealed under his shirt and gave it Manager (Dominic) Mullaney.  When cut open (the following day in the presence of Shreveport Pirates Manager Bob Gilks) it was found to be wrapped in rubber.”

Charlie Frank

Charlie Frank

Five days later the Atlanta Crackers were in New Orleans when, in the eighth inning after home runs by Pelicans’ William O’Brien and Mark “Moxey” Manuel,  Atlanta second baseman and captain, Adolph Otto “Dutch” Jordan suspected something was wrong with the balls.  The Atlanta Constitution said:

“(After Manuel’s home run) The ball was lost and new one was thrown out by the umpire, but before (Joe) Rickert, the next batter could go to the plate, Jordan picked up the ball and said he would not play, that the balls had rubber in them and that his men were being robbed…Jordan tried to purloin one of the balls, and only gave it up after he had been arrested by a half dozen policemen.”

Jordan was charged with petit larceny and released on $100 bond.  The ball taken from him was reported to be in the possession of the New Orleans Police.  Days later the Montgomery team gave the ball Apperious had kept to Southern Association President,  William Kavanaugh.  A full investigation was promised.

The Journal called for immediate action:

“Kavanaugh may be making investigations quietly and he may intend to act later, but what seems most in order just now is the suspension of the man who is said to be responsible for all the trouble in the Crescent City.  The actions of Charlie Frank in causing the arrest of Otto Jordan and his being taken in a patrol wagon through the streets of the city in a uniform of Atlanta, is a disgrace and the mere thought given it the more repugnant it becomes to all decent people.

“It was a disgusting and uncalled for act and was done to cover up the outrageous contact of the man who put the rubber balls into the game.”

By the end of the week, Apperious denied that the ball opened in Shreveport was the ball he caught in New Orleans while Mullaney and the Montgomery club dropped their request for an investigation of Charlie Frank and the rubber balls.

On June 23 the Crackers mascot, a four-year-old goat named Yaarab (shared with the Atlanta fire department) died suddenly.  A tongue-in-cheek article in The Constitution said: “when the news was flashed over the wires that Mullaney was another of Frank’s right-hand men, the goat betook himself to a bed of straw and curled up and bid his firemen friends a last farewell.”

Yaarab in happier times

Yaarab in happier times

Once Apperious and Mullaney withdrew their allegations, the scandal went the way of most of the annual scandals in the league; in early August The Sporting Life said President Kavanaugh declared the charges “entirely unfounded.”

Apperious appeared in 137 games for Montgomery in 1906 and hit .251.  The Constitution called him “The fastest outfielder in the South.”  The Montgomery Advertiser said he was “one of the best all-around ballplayers in the South.”

He only appeared in 24 more games.  Early in the 1907 season, The Advertiser said he was “suffering with water on the knee.”  Unable to recover from the injury, Apperious was released by Montgomery in June.

Apperious would never play again; he married and moved to Louisville, Kentucky.

The man who refused to take the field with William Clarence Matthews and the Cuban X Giants lived to see baseball integrated.  He died in 1962.  There is no record of him ever speaking to a reporter about his actions in Washington and Vermont.

A final note: The Washington Herald reported before the 1908 college baseball season that for the first time since 1904 Harvard would be playing Georgetown:

“When Sam Apperious was captain of the varsity nine Harvard insisted on playing a negro against the Blue and Gray, and Apperious viewed the game from the bench.  This brought about a severance of athletic relations, but the old wounds have healed and the Crimson will play at Georgetown field on April 25.”

The game ended in a 2-2 tie after 10 innings.

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Samuel H. Apperious

6 Jan

Samuel H. “Sam” Apperious (incorrectly identified as William Apperious  on Baseball Reference and other sources) led two separate boycotts that contributed to keeping William Clarence Matthews out of organized baseball—four decades before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

Apperious was born in Montgomery, Alabama; fellow Alabamian Matthews was born in Selma (some contemporaneous accounts wrongly claimed both were born in Selma).

The wealthy Apperious attended Georgetown University.  Matthews, after studying, and playing baseball and football, at Tuskegee Institute and Phillips Andover, enrolled at Harvard University.

Apperious was part of Georgetown teams (1900-1904) that sent several players to the big leagues, including Leon “Doc” Martell, James “Hub” Hart, Charles Moran, and Art Devlin.  Apperious, who was first a catcher and later a center fielder, was considered one of the team’s best prospects.

In 1903, the Boston press reported that Boston Americans manager Jimmy Collins, in need of a second catcher, “tried to get Sam Apperious, of Georgetown, but he declined to enter the professional ranks.”  The following year The Sporting Life said among college players, Apperious was “the hardest-hitting outfielder of them all.”

Sam Apperious

Sam Apperious

Matthews played shortstop at Harvard and received equally as glowing reports.  Samuel McClure’s “Outing” magazine, a monthly sports publication, said Matthews was the best shortstop in college baseball each year from 1903 through 1905.  The Boston Post said he was “the best infielder” in Harvard’s history—this included teammate Eddie Grant who went on to a 10-year big league career.

Apperious and Matthews met for the first time on April 18, 1903.  When the Harvard team arrived in Washington D.C. for a game, Apperious, the Georgetown captain, refused to play.  The Associated Press said in addition to Apperious’ boycott “There were some wild demonstrations of displeasure at the Negros’ appearance in the field but Matthews won the crowd by his brilliant plays.”

The Colored American said:

“Mr. Apperious is no doubt feeling pretty mean, that is, if he is capable of such a sensation.  His want of hospitality, his conspicuous rudeness and their absolute futility must be subjects of unpleasant recollections to him.”

The paper noted that Apperious’ name “indicates his un-American traits,” and said after Matthews demonstrated his talent, several of the other Georgetown players “grew ashamed of their conduct and acclaimed Matthews as heartily as they had sneered at him, but this foreign importation was not sure enough of his own status to imperil it in a contest of brawn and skill with a colored gentleman.”

Harvard won the game 8 to 0.  Apperious would also choose to sit out two additional games against Harvard (one later that season and one in 1904) which led to a short rift between the schools, and a suspension of scheduled games.

In 1905, Apperious was appointed Graduate Coach of the Georgetown team.  He summed up his coaching philosophy to The Washington Times:

“In short the choice of men must be wholly on the man’s worth for the position for which he is trying.”

1905 Georgetown baseball team. Apperious is second from left in the center row

1905 Georgetown baseball team. Apperious is second from left in the center row

Later that year Apperious failed to apply his philosophy to Matthews.

In the summer of 1905 Apperious went to Vermont, as he had the previous summer, to play in the state’s “outlaw” Northern League—the league was notorious for having multiple college players performing under assumed names to retain their eligibility.  Apperious played both seasons for the Montpelier-Barre club (known in the local press as the Inter-Cities or Hyphens).

During his first summer in Vermont,  Apperious had raised some eyebrows on July 21, 1904, when he did not participate in an exhibition game between the Inter-Cities and the barnstorming Cuban X Giants.  The Bennington Evening Banner said the “Southerner refused to play against the colored team.”

Matthews joined the Burlington club at the end of June 1905 to immediate controversy.  The Montpelier Argus said a pitcher named Smith “from the south” had left the team as a result, and Apperious made it known he would not play on the same field as Matthews.  When the Burlington club arrived in Barre for a July game with the Inter-Cities, Apperious made good on his threat and watched the game from the bleachers.

Apperious was condemned in the Vermont press:

The Newport Express and Standard:

“(Matthews) may be his equal in every respect: not only in intelligence, but in performing the part of a gentleman as well.  Certainly so in this instance, so far as Mr. Apperious  is concerned, the much aggrieved white individual in this case…Mr. Apperious had better retire to those places where peonage is still in practice—where he can still vent his spite on the Negro as his little, narrow-minded, measly soul desires.”

The St. Albans Messenger:

“If Apperious wants to show his loyalty to and affection for his native Southland, which is a commendable thing in any man, he could do it better by helping his generation t forget some rank nonsense that used to pass for ultra-refinement and chivalry.”

The Poultney Journal:

“(Apperious) Hails from a state where the best citizens” burn people alive…Good chap.  Too good to play ball with a graduate of Harvard college.  If he goes to heaven will want a box stall all to himself.  Scat! Vermont has no use for him—believes in the doctrine “all men were created free and equal.” Apperious is as good as a colored man—if he behaves himself as well.  Better wash and go South.”

  The Wilmington Times:

“Vermonters like to see good, clean ball, and they are not fussy as to the color of the player who can deliver.”

One of the few exceptions in Vermont was The Montpelier Argus which said Apperious was simply following his “traditions, sentiments and interests,” and “it is rank foolishness to expect everyone to bend to our ideas.”

Apperious also found support from The Washington Post which said: “The college players in the Vermont League (sic) are following the lead of Sam Apperious in ‘cutting’ Negro Matthews.”

The paper also repeated an allegation that Matthews “had played (professional) summer ball every year since he entered Harvard.”  While Matthews had played four seasons on the baseball team and graduated from Harvard, The Post, with no evidence, alleged Harvard “dropped Matthews,” because of the allegations.

Despite Apperious’ refusal to play against him, and reports throughout the season that, as The Boston Globe said,  some opponents were “laying for “ Matthews and he “had been spiked several times,” he completed the season with Burlington. But after a quick start (.314 through 14 games) his average dropped off to .248.

There were rumors in the Boston press that summer that Matthews might become a member of the National League’s Boston Beaneaters, but he never played professional baseball after his controversial season in Vermont and his second run-in with Sam Apperious.

Matthews became an attorney, was actively involved in politics and served as legal counsel for Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.  He died in 1928.

William Clarence Matthews with Harvard Baseball Team

William Clarence Matthews with Harvard Baseball Team

The rest of Apperious’ story on Wednesday.

 

George Treadway

16 Oct

A small item in the Louisville Courier-Journal near the end of the 1893 season created a major stir.  And while the story was almost immediately shown to be untrue, several books and articles over the years have tried to imply that it’s still an open question.

The story about George Treadway was written by Courier-Journal Baseball Editor Sam McKee who was traveling with the Baltimore Orioles of the National League:

“There can be little doubt that Treadway, Baltimore’s right fielder is a Negro…all the players say he is.”

Treadway attributed the story to a former teammate he refused to name, and told The Baltimore News:

“The story is the result of a piece of spite work on the part of a former member of the Baltimore team, and knowing the man as I do, I am not surprised that such a thing could emanate from him.”

Treadway went on to say that he had information about the player which would “Kill him eternally, as far as the baseball profession is concerned, but I prefer not to act in that underhanded way.”

Treadway said the story about him came out of an incident when he was playing with Denver in the Western Association when an opposing player had directed a racist epitaph at Treadway.

George Treadway

Both The Baltimore Afro-American and baseball columnist O.P. Taylor reported that the story was investigated and was untrue.  At the same time it came to light that Baltimore owner Harry Vonderhorst and manager Ned Hanlon had heard similar rumors and conducted an investigation before signing Treadway, The Sporting Life said:

“Manager Hanlon felt satisfied the report was without truth and Treadway was made a member of the team.”

The story quickly went away, but in recent years has been revived, and mostly in the absence of the facts.  For example:

“. . . the writers . . . compared Joe (Jackson) to Treadway . . . but they did not mention that Treadway had been driven out of baseball by opposing players and fans who bombarded him with taunts and slurs about his alleged or real Negro blood.” – From Say It Ain’t So, Joe!: The True Story of Shoeless Joe Jackson

This reference to Treadway, like most, ignores critical facts.  The taunts and slurs must not have been very effective—Treadway remained in the Major Leagues for two full seasons, and part of a third after the story broke, and he was “driven out of baseball” a full 11 years later at the age of 37.

Had there been any evidence that Treadway was African-American his tenure in professional baseball would have been similar in length to that of William Clarence Matthews a decade later.

As the starting shortstop for Harvard University, Matthews faced four years of racial tension and boycotts—when the Crimson faced Georgetown in 1903 Georgetown’s manager,  and the team’s catcher, Samuel H. Apperious (Baseball Reference lists him as “William”) refused to participate in the game.

After graduating Matthews attempted to play professional baseball, signing with the Burlington team in the Vermont-based “outlaw” Northern League.  Upon arriving in Burlington Matthews was faced with another player boycott led by the same Sam Apperious, who was playing for the Montpelier-Barre team in the lead.  While there were rumors that Matthews might play Major League ball it never rose beyond speculation.

Matthews was, in effect,  “driven out of baseball.”

William Clarence Matthews with Harvard Baseball Team

George Treadway was in and out of professional baseball until 1904, but his absences were about the economics of early baseball and not questions about his race: from 1899-1901 Treadway played baseball for various teams in the Chicago area, including the White Rocks in the Chicago City League, while working for the Pullman Palace Car Company.

After leaving Chicago, Treadway played in the Pacific Northwest League and Pacific Coast League.  He stayed on the West Coast and settled in California until his death in 1928.

Matthews became an attorney, was actively involved in politics and served as legal counsel for Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.  He also passed away in 1928.