Tag Archives: St. Louis Stars

“Robert was Down in the Mouth Over his Punk Pitching”

3 Jun

Robert Poindexter threw a 7-inning no-hitter for the Birmingham Black Barons in 1928; less than a year later his career was over after he shot a teammate.

Poindexter joined the Memphis Red Sox in 1929 and was on the mound in relief for the club on May 30. The St. Louis Stars pounded Poindexter and the Red Sox 14-3—Poindexter allowed ten runs and gave up home runs to Mule Suttles and Willie Wells .

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, “A flock of errors and poor hitting,” contributed to the Memphis defeat.

poindbox.jpg

The Box Score

The Red Sox retired to the Grand Central Hotel on Jefferson Avenue.

The St. Louis Star said at 1 A.M., Poindexter was sitting in his room “pondering over his poor showing.” The paper suggested that some members of the Red Sox had suggested that the pitcher “laid down of the job,” during the game.

“Unaware of the mood of his teammate, J.C. McHaskell, hard-hitting first baseman, sought to console Poindexter, remarking:

‘”Today’s ladies’ day big boy, and you’ll go better with all the girl’s there.”’

Poindexter was said to have replied:

“’Get away from me—I’m mad enough to shoot.’”

He then drew a revolver and shot his teammate in the left foot:

“McHaskell hobbled downstairs, summoned a taxicab and went to City Hospital No. 2 for treatment. Policemen arrested Poindexter at the hotel.”

The Post-Dispatch interviewed McHaskell:

“’Robert was down in the mouth over his punk pitching and I tried to kinda sympathize with him,’ McHaskell explained at City Hospital No. 2. ‘I told him today was ladies’ day…Somehow he took offense at that. He thought I was razzing him, so he pulled out his pistol.’”

The Times said Poindexter’s teammates “told the police ‘they’d like mighty well,’’’ for him to be bonded out in time to pitch that day.

The United Press (UP) reported however, that it was discovered that Poindexter was wanted in Atlanta for “a little matter of a violated parole,” and would not be returning to the Red Sox. The Chicago Defender said Red Sox players claimed Poindexter had previously served time in Washington D.C. for a murder, but provided no additional details.

Red Sox Manager Harry Kenyon, who pitched that day in place of his incarcerated starter—and was trounced 19 to 6–told The UP:

“It sure is a tough break. McHaskell was good. And Poindexter was about the best pitcher we had. But I never did like his temperament.”

Poindexter’s professional career was over—although it is unclear whether he was ever sent to Atlanta or if he ever faced charges—he was killed just over a year later in Washington D.C. His age at death was estimated at 31, and his occupation was listed as “Ballplayer.”

McHaskell was back in the lineup within a month, but his professional career was over after the 1929 season.

Charles Mills and the St. Louis Giants

25 Mar

The origin of the Negro League St. Louis Giants, one of the Western Independent Clubs, has become clouded by conflicting histories –some say Charles Alexander Mills started the team in 1909, others say he started it earlier; contemporaneous accounts in the Black press differ, but seem to indicate that Conrad Kuebler, a white businessman (and ballpark owner) operated the team beginning in 1906 or ’07, with Mills becoming involved with the club later (the team was almost universally referred to as Kuebler’s Giants before 1909, when Mill’s became involved, and references as late as 1915 confirm  that Kuebler still had an ownership stake in the team).

Mills’ background is equally as murky, born around 1879; some sources call him “a bank messenger,” others “a tavern owner.”  He did for a time own a bar, the Keystone Cafe and Cabaret at the corner of Compton and Lawton in St. Louis which he opened in 1915—The Freeman said “Hours of good entertainment and high-class wines…can always be found at the Keystone.”

In any case, Mills operated the team on a shoestring in 1909; The Freeman said in 1911:

“Two years ago, when baseball was emerging from the field of darkness into the dim light of athletic fame, the present St. Louis Giants baseball team sprang into existence.  At that time baseball was something new to the Negroes of St. Louis and hardly 100 patrons attended the games.  Players would receive about .50 or .60 each for their share of the gate receipts.

“Their baseball uniform consisted of different colors, cheap material—every man wearing a different suit and stockings of a different type, therefore presenting a grotesque appearance.”

Charles Alexander Mills

Charles Alexander Mills

Within a year, Mills had transformed the Giants.

David Wyatt, a former Chicago Union Giants player turned sportswriter wrote about the opening of the 1910 season at Kuebler’s Field at the corner of Broadway and Pope:

“The St. Louis Giants pulled off a demonstrative honor of Negro baseball, the like of which has never been equaled in the history of the game.

“A monstrous street parade in which automobiles, landaus, coupes and traps played a conspicuous part, started promptly from in front of the Missouri Negro Republican League quarters at 12 o’clock and passed over a route which included all the principal thoroughfares inhabited by the Negro in St. Louis.”

Wyatt praised Mills “the genial and hustling business manager” of the Giants, who “proved conclusively that he is a type of young business- man who is not only endowed with spirit and proclivities of the up-and-doing variety, but he is putting the same into circulation and getting results.”

As for the game, Giants pitcher Bill Gatewood pitched a no-hitter against the Louisville Stars; an 11-0 victory in front of “an assemblage of about five thousand fans.”

By 1911, Mills had signed some of the best players in the country to join Gatewood, including team captain Dick Wallace and three of the Taylor Brothers; Ben, “Candy” Jim and “Steel Arm” Johnny.  The Giants, according to The Freeman now had “as good athletes as ever trod American soil.”

Giant Captain Wallace

Giant Captain Dick Wallace

Mills’ Giants won the St. Louis City League in 1912 and ’13 but were generally a .500 team in games against other Western Independent Clubs. Mills aggressively solicited opponents and filled the Giants schedule with games against all comers between league games.

A 1910 ad for Mills' St' Louis Giants soliciting games.

A 1910 ad soliciting games for Mills’ St. Louis Giants

Despite maintaining a fairly strong following in the African-American community, the Giants were something of a nomadic club–according to reports of games in The Freeman, The Chicago Defender and The St. Louis Argus the team played “home” games in no less than seven ballparks during Mills’ tenure.

The Giants continued operating as an independent team (although they seemed to have disbanded for most of 1917 and ’18— tensions stemming from the East St. Louis race riots in May and July of 1917 were probably a contributing factor).

In 1920, Mills was present at the YMCA on 18th and Vine in Kansas City for Rube Foster‘s meeting to form the Negro National League; his Giants finished 6th in 1920 and 3rd in 1921 (Giants’ center fielder Oscar Charleston hit–depending on the source– .433 or .444 that season).

Mills was either ousted or sold his interest in the team (depending on the source) after the 1921 season, and new owners Dr. Sam Sheppard (variously spelled Shepard, Sheperd, and Sheppard) who had played for the New York Gorhams in 1887 and Dick Kent renamed the team the St. Louis Stars.

Mills died in St. Louis in 1944; his role as a pioneer of black baseball so forgotten that as late as 1994, James A Riley in The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues refers to Mills as “A white businessman.”