Chet Bost – The West Coast Linchpin

Oakland Tribune-Oak Leafs-2-13-1916-pg.30

Oakland Tribune-Oak Leafs, Feb. 13, 1916-pg.30

 

“These players were formerly on the Lynne-Stanley Giants Club, which will play under the Oak Leaf’s name.”

 

The Oak Leaf Club, sometimes called the Oak Leafs were in fact the Lynne-Stanley Giants.

Every once in a while, you run across this name: Chet Bost

Chester Allen Bost, was born on October 3, 1890, in Fresno, CA., to parents John and Alice Bost, who were originally from North Carolina, and migrated West before the Great Migration, between the years of 1888 and 1889. According to the 1900 U.S. Census, Chester A. Bost, better known as “Chet” was one of nine children. This large family owned their own home, free and clear of mortgage, at 128 M Street, in Fresno, CA.

John Bost, and Chet’s bother, James were ‘Teemers’, and more than likely worked at the Fresno Brewing Company, where they unloaded grain for beer making. Chet’s older brothers, William and John worked as a ‘boot black’ and ‘barber’, which added dollars to the family’s income and financial stability.

 

Chester Allen Bost-U.S. Census 1900

 

Lynne B. Stanley was an Oakland merchant, who owned a Men’s haberdashery , but was also one of Oakland’s principal community leaders.

Polk-Husted Directory Co.'s Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda directory v.1913-i

He sponsored auto racing, baseball, and was also the main founder of the Athens Athletic Club in Oakland. whose origin reaches back to 1919.

 

According to the Oakland Tribune, September 27, 1925:

It was in April, 1919. that Lynne Stanley then a local merchant, first broached the suggestion for such a club. He pointed out that nearly every important city had an athletic club, with a fine, modern building and with the leading citizens of the community in its membership, except Oakland. Stanley determined that Oakland should have such, an institution. Within the next few days he-had prepared a typewritten sheet stating that those whose names were undersigned would help organize an athletic club. Then he started out to get signatures. Stanley submitted his plan to one after another of the business and professional men of the city, obtaining a name here and another there.

 

Leaders lead. Lynne Stanley was a leader, and knew leadership quality when he found a young Chet Bost, and asked him to lead the Lynne Stanley Giants, one of the preeminent African American baseball teams on the West Coast. They played their seasons at Grove Street Park, Bayview (Ernie Raimondi ) Park, Klinknerville (Freeman’s) Park, and sometimes Oaks (Emeryville) Park.

Those are the basics.

Not much is known about Chet Bost, or how he got his start in baseball. Documenting his career in the early years is a laborious task, given what remains intact about his history in general. He played for a brief, but memorable period, for both the Occidentals of Utah and the Chicago Giants in 1911, before becoming the ‘captain’ of the Lynne Stanley Giants in 1914.

How long he played for the Occidentals or Chicago Giants is questionable, but he spent a longer period with the Occidentals, shortly before the State League went under. Records indicate that he played with the Occidentals from April 10 to July 16 of 1911.

 

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Los Angeles Herald-Number 119,  January, 28, 1911

 

****McCormicks vs. Chicago Giants-Los Angeles Herald-Chet Bost-February 11-1911.pdf

Los Angeles Herald – McCormicks vs. Chicago Giants -February 11,1911

 

***Chet Bost-Salt Lake Tribune, 1911-04-16.pdf

Salt Lake Tribune, April 16, 1911

 

Salt Lake Tribune-1911-05-14-Swift Occidentals

Salt Lake Tribune-May 14, 1911

 

Bost Record-Salt Lake Tribune-1911-06-17-Occident

Salt Lake Tribune– June17, 1911

 

Bost hit two home runs in a single inning while playing for the Occidentals in 1911. Major League Baseball records showed that the last person to perform such a feat was Jake Stenzel (AL) of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1894, and the next would be Ken Williams (NL) of the St. Louis Browns in 1922. This accomplishment would make Bost a regional celebrity throughout the West for years to come.

In 1912, Bost would play shortstop for the Oakland Giants, a semipro team, managed by  a fellow named Watson. The Oakland Giants team was comprised of: “Herb” Clarke second base and team captain, B. Martin at first base, Houston at third base, Warwin Martin behind the plate, Hillary “Bullet” Meaddows pitching, Richardson in center field, with Durgan in left field and White in right field, and Hawkins as utility man. They would be the building blocks for the Lynne-Stanley Giants of 1913 and 1914.

By 1914, Bost had taken over as the position of team captain from Clarke, while Watson retained his position as manager, and with the financial backing of Lynne B. Stanley, the Lynne-Stanley Giants were born.

 

The Lynne Stanley Giants constitute the best colored baseball talent to be found in the bay county regions, and Manager Watson can brag of also having one of the fastest clubs around the country, for he has some men who have proved there ability in even faster company.

The Giants made the proud record in 1913 of winning 27 out of  32 games played, and they met such fast teams as the Modesto Reds, Sebastopol, Sam Mateo and Santa Rosa. The Lynne-Stanley Giants are even faster this season than last and have won a greater majority of their games by their fine fielding and strong hitting.

The infield is composed of experienced men at all positions. For Matthews at first base has more than proven that he can still dig them out of the dirt, and he save the infielders many an error by his clever work. “Herb” Clarke at second is considered a second “Jimmy” Johnston on account of his speed. He is very fast and a heady ballplayer and hits above the .300 mark at all times. “Bullet” Meaddows at third was the Giants mainstay in the box last season, but since he has shown his stellar work around third base to “Captain” Bost , there is not a chance of his being moved. He is a very good hitter and fast. “Chet” Bost, captain and short-stop, needs very little introduction. He trained under well-known baseball leaders. “Rube” Foster of the Chicago Giants and Frank Black of the Occidentals of the Utah State league, which one the pennant of 1910. Houston, Mitchell and Durrgan are this season — all hitting over the .300 mark, and it is very hard to drive a ball over this trios head, for they are all sure fielders with good throwing arms.” —- Oakland Tribune — edited by Bill Crosby, “Clever Colored Team, Which Plays Carnations Today” — July 5, 1914

 

Bost spent three years building the Lynne-Stanley Giants as one of the West most notable African American semi-pro teams. Which brings us to the year of 1916.

Soldiers returning from the Philippines, soldiers of the 24th Infantry stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco, is where Bost chose to ‘farm’ his new club. With Henry F. Hastings replacing Watson as ‘manager’, and the financial backing of Lynne B. Stanley gone, Bost reorganized the team he had helped build, and renamed them the Oakland Oak Leafs.

Hastings was a liquor salesman and a saloon keeper from Louisiana. In relationship to the time period, location of black owned businesses, and sporting events, Hastings fits into the picturesque seediness that was early West Oakland and Emeryville. Emeryville, CA. was the ‘Las Vegas of the East Bay’, long before Las Vegas was thought of.

Gambling, sporting events, book making, card clubs, saloons, race tracks, bootlegging and bordellos were all a part of the patchwork pattern of this industrial boomtown,  Every race, gender, and social class intermingled openly, in full view of the public within the borders of Emeryville when it came to gaming and sports.

Emeryville was also the home of the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League.

In mid-Feb. of 1916, Bost secured two new twirlers. One by the name of Salsbury, who was supposedly a “regimental star pitcher”.  The other, Blake, who was known for his curve ball. These two unknown pitchers were selected out of the nine regimental teams of the 24th stationed at the Presidio that returned from the Philippines in 1915. Salsbury was ‘sufficient’ as a fast ball pitcher, and Blake threw a mean, breaking curve ball, but as the season opener grew closer, his new picks (Scott, Brown, Blake, Smith, Salsbury and Daniels) would be shifted around to make room for additional members who had experience.

As “Captain” — Bost had high expectation for the Oak Leafs, and so did his returning players. By Feb. 20, 1916, “Henry” Hastings had lined up a squad of 17 men to choose from.

Houston, Richardson, Clarke, Meaddows, Bost, Dunlop, Salsbury, H. Smith, Scott, Blake, C. Smith, Brown, Couver, Swazie, Rhodes, Murillo, and Raymond. Pitching was still and issue though. Between Blake and Salsbury, both right handed tossers, Hastings was looking for something ‘special’. Hastings was in negotiations with Jimmy Claxton to bring his skills South to California and play in the Bay Area. Claude Couver, who had played with Claxton on the 1914 Lew Hubbard Giants (also known and the Colored Giants Of Portland) was already working out with the Oak Leafs in preparation for opening day.

In March of 1916, Claxton signed a ‘questionable’ contract with Gresham Giants of the Portland Inter-City League, in Oregon. Trouble was brewing within the league though. According to Ty Phelan, writer of “Dark Horse, The Jimmy Claxton Story“, Claxton dark hue caused significant problems for the “business men” who financed the Gresham Giants. This is more than likely the truth, but it would seem a cover story was needed.

 

“Considerable fuss has been stirred up because Eddie Bogart and Billy Stepp signed contracts with both the Gresham and St. John’s clubs. As the signed their names to Gresham parchments first, they will probably be declared property of that club.

Following are the players by the respective team leaders:

Gresham — Fred Garner, Tommy Townsend, Eddie Bogart, Billy Stepp, Ogden, Johnny Newman, Jimmy Claxton, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Roy Lund, Phillip Lind, Cack Blanchard, Phillips, Fred McKean, George White, “Tot” Manning, and O’Leary ” — The Sunday Oregonian — March 5, 1916

 

By March 21, 1916:

Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 186-1-March 21-1916

Morning Oregonian-March 21, 1916

 

Claxton made his way to the Oakland Bay Area, and was available for the season opener against the Bloomheart baseball team on Mar. 26, 1916, at 3:30 PM. Claxton probably reached Oakland, by train, on Mar. 22,  days before the Morning Oregonian reported on the 25th that “League Officials Meet: William A. Ross Retained As Manager Of Gresham“, only to pitch against U.C. Berkeley on the 24th . Having no time to familiarize himself with his new team, or they with him, the Oak Leafs lost to U.C. Berkeley by a score of 8 to 6 — with Claxton giving up nine walks, and five hits, and Meaddows, Richardson, Woods, and Brown, absent from the line-up.

At least Claxton was still alive. When men lose their jobs, they are likely to do anything.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire as the saying goes, must have been Claxton’s motto

 

Comedy Keeps This Team On Toes-O.T.-4-16-1916-pg. 41

Oakland Tribune — April 2, 1916

 

Within weeks, Claxton ruled on the mound in his new found home. Bost and Hastings were elated by his continued performance and successes. Reading multiple articles from the period and knowing the historical terrain the Oak Leafs were based in, one could sense that Claxton’s exceptional notoriety would bring unwanted exposure to the Oak Leafs as a team. This imported player from Portland out shined the men who built the Oak Leafs from the early Lynne-Stanley Giants. It didn’t matter though. Claxton was enjoying the spotlight. He was grateful to have a place to play, when in fact, he could have probably played anywhere in the nation, had the racial playing field been level when he was heading towards his peak.

Hastings was 100% business, even if some of it was illicit business. Bost was 100% team oriented and focused, and Claxton was 100% star, who needed guidance and grounding.

Mixing this combination with weekly barnstorming and league play, while replacing players on a whim, is a dangerous cocktail when trying to take a team to the top. Bost was caught in the middle, with no escape in sight. Hastings relied heavily on Bost to manage a winning ball club at all cost. Bost relied on Hastings for his financial support of the Oak Leafs and business acumen to draw crowds for the gate. The end sum result would be a very high turnover in players. Winning was important, and the Oak Leafs were definitely winners, but camaraderie within a team environment is crucial to its success, and it also cultivates its  longevity.

 

“Hastings is one of Oakland’s prominent business men and is trying to put the city in the limelight with an aggressive ball team. He sent away this season to import good talent for his team, as nothing but a winning team will suit him. He has his wires out now to land Dunlap of Vallejo, who is rated as a wonderful ball player. Hastings has put “Chet” Bost at the head of his team this season, as he thinks Chet’s ability is just about right, and he will cater only to the best of players for games this season, as he has a club that will compete with any of them.” —  Oakland  Tribune –“Comedy Keeps This Team On Toes” — April 2, 1916

 

Reported in the Oakland Tribune on May 14, 1916, that a week prior to the article, The Oak Leafs had once again beaten the No. 1 ranked Bloomheart team, by a score of 4 to 0. The caption read, “Oak Leafs Still Unbeatable“.

 

“Chet” Bost has the club going at top speed and deserves a lot of credit for the Brilliant manner in which the club has been going.

Jimmy Claxton and Couver are really a big league battery only in disguise, as they both are showing a lot of class, and with pitcher Dunlap are going to make the Oak Leafs some battery.

Claxton has struck out over eighty men in six games and in the last three only five hits and two runs have been made off him.

Scruggs, the new first baseman this season, is the best the club has had in years as he is a natural fielder and a good hitter.

Manager Hastings wants only to meet the fastest clubs and any of the country clubs can accept the invitation by communicating through Spauldings. Hastings says, “Just bring ’em on.” –Oakland Tribune, “Oak Leafs Still Unbeatable” — May 14, 1916

 

Many stories have been written about Claxton.

Most of them exclude his relationship with Chet Bost and Henry Hastings.

That two week period between May 14, 1916 and May 28, 1916, up to the day when Claxton first set foot on the mound for the Oakland Oaks of the PCL, are open for speculation. ‘Maggie’ the missing pig, the Oakland Oaks most prized mascot, supposedly eaten by the Oaks secretary — was not the reason the Oaks were in a slump, nor was it because Rowdy Elliot ‘rubbed’ the head of Erasmus Pinckney Johnson the wrong way, before a game in April against the Los Angeles Angels.

There are those who say that Claxton was introduced to Herb McFarland, Secretary of the Oakland Oaks, by a fellow named “Hastings” of Native American descent from Oklahoma, and that Claxton provided documentation asserting to the claim that he was indeed a person of ‘Native American’ descent. Others believe that Claxton was outed by a ‘friend’ who pointed Claxton out to Oaks officials at a bar on 7th Street in West Oakland, that ‘friend’ of course being Elliot himself.

From race to rumor, from rumor to superstition, killing the Claxton bird was worth two in the bush. The press he was receiving in those daysfrom main stream media, for an African American pitcher shutting out team after team in the West, as truly amazing.

Oakland needed a winning team, it just didn’t need to be the Oak Leafs.

Then again, there is ‘that photograph’, showing Claude Couver, Henry Hastings, and Jimmy Claxton of the Oakland Oak Leafs from the Oakland Tribune in April of 1916, and the endless reporting by the Oakland Tribune of Claxton’s success on the mound as an Oak Leafs southpaw — with an amazing strikeout record! Any seasoned reporter who might have checked on the reason why Claxton left Portland, and what team he played with prior to hurling for the Oak Leafs could have been ‘the culprit’ who outed him.

Claxton never returned to the Oak Leafs after his short stint with the Oakland Oaks.

The Oak Leafs played a few more games after that, but their new pitcher Scruggs wasn’t the same gate lure as Claxton. After Claxton left, Hasting had to move his team and give up Freeman’s Park as their home field spot. Moving the club to St. Mary’s College field, Hastings found it difficult to secure games with other teams. The Oak Leafs, formerly known as the Lynne-Stanley Giants would never reorganize next year, nor play under that name ever again. Claxton was a major draw when it came to home town fans, but there was no way he could return to play for the Oak Leafs after the Oakland Oaks debacle. It hit to close to home, and the wounds were still fresh.

The PCL farmed from semi-pro teams in the area, especially the Oakland Oaks, but no African American ever attempted to enter J. Cal Ewing‘s all-white baseball dynasty. And now, Ewing’s front office had inadvertently hired a “colored fellow” as a pitcher, from a extremely well known African American semi-pro club, in the local area.

 

“If I were a player working for McCredie, and he asked me to go out and play against these colored fellows, I would refuse to do it for him.”…

“There are two classes I bar from playing on my ball park—colored tossers and bloomer girls. They will never use any park I control.” — The Morning Oregonian – J. Cal Ewing –“Coast Magnates Draw Color Line”, January 24, 1914

 

After Claxton left the the Oak Leafs permanently, the Oak Leafs fell apart. According to Bost 1917-1918 World War I Draft Registration, he worked as a “Ice Cream Porter” at Bowen Ice Cream Company in his hometown of Fresno. Bowen Ice Cream Company would have a change of ownership in September of 1917, selling lock, stock and barrel to the Weimer brothers who brought in new equipment to increase production to 1,500 gallons a day.  It would be close to three years before Chet Bost would play for a truly significant team again.

 

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1917-1918 World War I Draft Registration, Chester Allen Bost

 

 

 

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Ice Cream Review, Vol. 2, September 1917

 

Bost played for local teams, like the Weilheimer Giants in 1917, sponsored by L.H. Weilheimer, Indian (motorcycle) Agent, who had dissolved his partnership with Hertwick & Weilheimer, and taking over Mr. Hertwick’s interest in the business. Building a new showroom, Weilheimer needed as much publicity as he could afford. The Weilheimer Giants were more of a advertising platform for Weilheimer’s new business venture. Weilheimer was certainly not as sport minded as Lynne B. Stanley. His main focus was on all that was motorcycles and mechanical, which led to patents on motorcycle devices, including like the ‘Moto Meter and Radiator Cap Lock ‘ in 1919.

The Shadow Giants seem to have been Bost’s 1918 attempt to get a local team going after Weilheimer pulled his backing. Eddie Jackson was ‘captain’ of the Shadow Giants, and played catcher as well. Gene Cooper, who played for the Los Angles White Sox, pitched for the Shadow Giants. Billy “Bullet” Woods held down short stop.

The 1919 Shasta Limiteds were a different group though under the ownership of Tod Graham. Bost seemed to be getting back on track, gathering a team that compiled such men as Billy Woods, Goldie Davis, Gene Cooper, Jimmy Claxton, Carlisle Perry, Houston, and Hillary Meaddows, and Eddie Jackson as his co-Capatain.

 

Shasta Giants 1919-20

1919 Shasta Limiteds, Northwest Dispatch –February 7, 1983 — courtesy of Ty Phelan

 

Oakaland Tribune-Jun 30-1919

Oakland Tribune — June 30, 1919

Great Game Between Tractors And Shasta Team Ends In Ninth-Inning Row: San Leandro Mayor Puts Stop To Greatest Bush Game Ever Put On Here. Bad Decision by LaRue and Too Much Baumgarten Is Cause Of Near Riot.Oakland Tribune — By Eddie Murphy — June 30, 1919

 

C.L. Best Tractors were the 1918 Mission League Champions. So on that fateful day, the 30th of June 1919, a lot was at stake. ( In 1925, C. L. Best Tractor Company and Holt Manufacturing Company merged to form Caterpillar Tractor Company )

C. L. Best Gas Traction Co. Tractors baseball team-1918-were the Mission League champions

C.L. Best Tractors 1918

 

The main topic among the bush baseball fans this week will be the game to be played at San Leandro next Sunday afternoon in which the C. L. Best Tractors of that town and the Shasta the colored organization of Oakland, will clash In the first battle of their three-game series. The game is expected to figure in deciding the bush championship of Northern California, and also promises a great pitching battle between Johnny Gillespie and Jimmy Claxton. the strikeout kings of the bushes. The colored boys have met the best amateur teams and held their own, but it will be the first time they clashed with the Tractors.” Oakland Tribune — June 23, 1919

 

This game would be the first game of a three game series, Gillespie vs. Claxton, for the semi-pro championship of Northern California. Bost was placed in the middle once again. The first game of the series was deemed a ‘tie’, although it involved a lot more than a dueling battle between Claxton and Gillespie. Bost, as “captain” of the Shasta Limiteds was thrust into the middle again. In the ninth inning, Bost was tasked with protecting Umpire Larue from fans who thought Larue made a bad a call at home plate.

A fellow named ‘Jake Baumgarten”, who seemed to be a agitator/spectator, caused havoc on the field that day, when a bad call was made in the ninth inning by Umpire, Louie Larue, allowing for the tied score of 1-1. Baumgarten was the umpire that Risberg had leveled with a single blow after he called a third strike on Risberg. Baumgarten was not officiating the game, but felt compelled to speak his mind about the bad call, and other things. He took a megaphone and headed towards the center of the diamond.

Kelly Boyer Sagert and Rod Nelson, write a terrific biography about Swede Risberg, where it mentions Swede having to skip town after having a run in with ‘a man’ at a White Sox team hotel in New York.

The Oakland Tribune states:

“Charley (Swede) Risberg, Chicago White Sox player is not the only one who can boast a one-second decision over Jake Baumgarten. Yesterday afternoon at the San Leandro ball park the biggest crowd to witness any bush game this season was out and hoping to see the C.L. Best Tractors and the Shasta Limited battle for the Northern California bush championship. They saw part of it, and the reason they did not see it all was because Jake Baumgarten made himself a little too busy trying to tell those fans what they should do. The result was a big crowd after Jake and the first fellow to arrive within reach of him planted his paw squarely on his mouth. Jake lost a tooth or two.

Jake was rescued by a few fellows who did not want to see murder committed. but Jake got mad and went out on the field with a bat. He came to Eddie Jackson, catcher of the Shastas, and Eddie being a little too wise for Jake let his fist fly and Jake hit the ground almost as quick as he did the time Risberg dropped him for the count at one of the Shipbuilder’s League games.” — Oakland Tribune — “Great Game Between Tractors And Shasta Team Ends In Ninth-Inning Row“– By Eddie Murphy — June 30-1919″

 

O.T.-Great Game Between Tractors And Shasta Team Ends In Ninth-Inning Row"- June 30-1919

Oakland Tribune — “Great Game Between Tractors And Shasta Team Ends In Ninth-Inning Row” — By Eddie Murphy — June 30-1919″

It seems that the entire 3 game series was filmed by the TRIBUNE-KINEMA man, including the fight.

 

Before the game Mayor Felton, Judge Gannon, C.L. Best, Manager Bill Wagner, and Toney Enos of the Tractors and Tod Graham of the Shastas, along with players of both clubs. paraded to the flagpole in center field, and hoisted the TRIBUNE pennant won by the Tractors while the movie man was busy turning the crank.

Many fans will want to see the movies so they will know for themselves just how the play at the plate which ended the game should have been decided. — Oakland Tribune — “Great Game Between Tractors And Shasta Team Ends In Ninth-Inning Row” — By Eddie Murphy — June 30-1919″

 

Bob Shand, of the Oakland Tribune,  tells a similar, but slightly different version of the C.L, Best Tractors vs. Shasta Limiteds ninth inning brawl that day.

 

O.T.-San Leandro Game Breaks Up In A Row-June 30-1919

Oakland Tribune — “San Leandro Game Breaks Up In A Row” — by Bob Shand—  June 30, 1919

Baumgarten’s major complaint, it would seem, had to do with the mention of “betting on ball games”. By witnessing LaRue’s bad call, he felt the game was rigged. Baumgarten was ejected from the playgrounds. It was a very exciting day in San Leandro.

 

One final team that Bost played for was the Oakland Pierce Giants.

Chet Bost-Oakland Pierce Giant

 

If relevant to your post, perhaps mention that (in 1923, I think) as a member of the Oakland Pierce Giants he and his teammates partied with Zenimura and the other members of the Fresno Athletic Club.”, — was a comment shared with this writer, by Bill Staples Jr., author of “Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer“.

The word ‘relevant’ leads  to the U.S. Census Record for 1920 in Alameda, where Chet Bost lived in Japantown, and shared part of a duplex-house on Park Street with a man named “Kodama”, while working in the Oakland Shipyards as a laborer. Mary Dyson, an older widow, was the owner of the duplex. Renting her property to African American and Japanese men didn’t seem to bother her in the least. More than likely, Bill’s story about Zenimura’s Fresno Athletic Club partying together with Bost and the Oakland Pierce Giants  is true — along with the other stories that have been bandied around about Chester Allen Bost.

Without “Captain” Chet Bost at the helm taking risk, playing with multiple teams in the West, and building quite a few of them from scratch like the Oak Leafs, there would have never been a 1916 Jimmy Claxon Zeenut card worth $15,000 in (NM) mint condition.

If you can find one.

Claxton may be the reason you never hear much about the Oak Leafs, formerly known as the Lynne-Stanley Giants.

Chet Bost is the reason they’ll always endure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

With the passing of Muhammad Ali, I’m taking a break from many other things that are pressing and important to reflect on life and the journey all great men take to master the  Art of Sportsmanship. A picture that I’ve held in my personal archives for sometime, needs to be shared with one and all.

Often times, we see what we want to see in a man, and how that man impacted the History of Sports.

 

Zach Clayton-Ali_drops_Foreman-1975

Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali vs. “Big” George Foreman. “Rumble In The Jungle”, in  Kinshasa, Zaire, Africa. Oct. 29, 1974. Photo courtesy of Box Rec.

 

I often follow the trail of boxing that might eventually lead to baseball, and this picture is worth more than a thousand words. “The Rumble In The Jungle” has been called the greatest sporting event of the 20th Century. With 20 seconds left in Round 8, Ali begins with a flurry of punches, starting with a clean left jab, and what the announcer referred to as a “sneaky” right hand. Ali fends off Foreman’s bearish advance with another quick left-jab, and delivers another jaw snapping right-cross. In less than a second, Ali hit Foreman with another short, power-shot right hand for good measure. Foreman wobbles. His legs are leaving him, and he leads with his chin from this point forward.

Ali land another hard right to Foreman’s jaw for good measure, which clearly hurts Foreman, and there is no turning back now. Ali executes a 1-2-3-4, left-right-left-right combination that floors “Big” George Foreman in the Eight Round, with eleven seconds remaining in the round.

Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman (Highlights)

 

Zach Clayton-RUMBLEinTheJUNGLE

Zach Clayton, George Foreman, and Muhammad Ali, “The Rumble In The Jungle”. Photo courtesy of BoxRec.

 

Pause…

The man who steps int to the frame to give Foreman the count, referee of this highly publicized prize fight is none other than Zachary “Smiley” Clayton, the former Pennsylvania State Athletic Commissioner. This particular battle between two giants was one of the many bouts that Zach Clayton refereed in his illustrious career as a professional ref.  In 1949, Zachary M. Clayton was the first black man to receive a referee’s license with the state of Pennsylvania. By 1952, Zach Clayton was the first black man to referee a heavy weight title fight. That fight was between Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles.

 

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Trevor Berbick, Zach Clayton, and Muhammad Ali, Dec. 11, 1981, Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre, Nassau, Bahamas. Photo courtesy BoxRec.

 

In a bush league ballpark, the ring built over second base, Ali waddled out to meet the fists of Berbick, an amiable Jamaican by way of Nova Scotia, whose only promise was not to kill his former idol, unless by accident.”-Bernie Lincicome Chicago Tribune

Ali’s career ended in a ballpark, and Zach Clayton was there to see the unanimous decision delivered by the officiating judges. Zach Clayton was there to witness Ali’s regain his status as Heavy Weight Champion of the World, and to witness his final fight with Trevor Berbick.

For the record, Zach “Smiley” Clayton was a man of many talents, and it all began with baseball.

Born Leroy Watkins Clayton on April 17, 1917 in Gloucester County, Virginia, Zach “Smiley” Clayton was destined to play professional sports. He began his baseball career in 1931 at the age of 14, with the 1931 Santop’s Broncos, and ended up playing with the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants in 1932, at the age of 15. He again played for the Bacharach’s in 1934, when they shifted from the Independent Negro League to the Negro National League. In 1935, “Smiley” moved his skill sets to play 1st Base for the Chicago American Giants. He skipped a year of play, then by 1937, he returned to play with the Chicago American Giants, as they shifted to the Negro American League.

He disappeared from the baseball scene till 1943.

Pause…

His sporting skills extended beyond baseball.

After careful research, I found out that Zach “Smiley” Clayton, also began a separate but equally astounding career as a point guard with the New York Renaissance basketball team. He played with the “Rens” from 1936 to 1943. During this same period, he also played with Harlem Globetrotters, the Washington Bears, and won two World Professional Basketball Tournament championships. Lost in the archives of history, using the formal name of “Zachariah“, he led the Rens to a 1939 World Championship of Professional Basketball title. In 1943, he led the Washington Bears to another World Championship, along with stars like that included Charles “Tarzan” Cooper, William “Pop” Gates, William “Dolly” King, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, which played a ‘perfect’ season with a record of 41-0. In 1989, Clayton was enshrined into the New York City and Philadelphia Basketball Hall of Fame.

“Winning the World’s title, the Washington team performed a feat that NO PREVIOUS WINNER HAS RECORDED. They finished the 1943 season with a perfect record having won every one of their 41 starts. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE TURN OF THE CENTURY THAT A PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL TEAM HAS ENJOYED A SEASON WITHOUT A SINGLE DEFEAT.” —Leo Fischer, Sports Editor, Chicago Herald-American

 

Zack Clayton-New York Rens 2

Zachariah “Zack” Clayton, one of the greatest basketball players of the Black Fives Era. Photo courtesy of Black Fives Foundation.

 

Fadeaway: The Team That Time Forgot – ABC News

 

The New York Rens professional basketball team, 1939.

The New York Rens professional basketball team, 1939. (Right to Left) with Clarence “Fats” Jenkins, Zach Clayton,  Eyre Saith, Clarence Bell, William Gates, John “Boy Wonder” Isaacs, and Charles “Tarzan” Cooper and “Wee Willie” Smith. Photo courtesy of Black Fives Foundation.

 

Washington Bears, 1943

The 1942-43 Washington Bears, winners of the 1943 World’s Championship of Professional Basketball. Left to right, Charles “Tarzan” Cooper, Charlie Isles, William “Dolly” King, John Isaacs, William “Pop” Gates, Clarence “Puggy” Bell, Zach Clayton, Robert “Sonny” Wood, and Jackie Bethards. Photo courtesy of Black Fives Foundation

 

 

The Montreal Gazette-3-20-1946-ii

Zach Clayton of the Harlem Globetotters, The Montreal Gazette, March 20, 1946

 

 

The Montreal Gazette-3-20-1946-i.jpg

The Montreal Gazette-3-20-1946-iii.jpg

 

 

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ranked Zach Clayton sixth in the 2016 HOF Early African American Pioneer Nominations, along with Cumberland Posey, Jr.

 

Jumping back to 1943, Clayton re-entered the baseball scene and joined the New York Black Yankees of the Negro National League, playing for them until 1944. There was a period during the 1940’s where Clayton also played for the Budweiser Barons as a 1st Baseman and a Catcher.

Clayton, Zack [standing far right Charles Cooper standing center]_BPA001X2019400000024_Ronal Auther

Zach Clayton (Standing, far right) with the Budweiser Barons, circa 1940’s. Photo courtesy of John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.

Charles “Tarzan” Cooper also played with Zach on this industrial league team.

 

Image of Zack Clayton posed on the baseball field in batting stance-Budwesier Barons Baseball ClubCareer-1940s

Zach Clayton at practice for the Budweiser Barons. Circa 1940’s. Photo courtesy of the John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.

 

Clayton also played with the Chicago Brown Bombers of the The United States League, Brooklyn Eagles, and the Brooklyn Royal Giants.This was during the first half of the 1940’s.

Clayton last attempt with professional baseball was in 1946, playing Catcher for the Oakland Larks, in the West Coast Baseball Association.

Smiley Clayton

Zach “Smiley” Clayton, Oakland Larks, 1946. Photo courtesy of the Richard T. Dobbins Collection, Judith P. Dobbins. African American Museum & Library at Oakland.

 

Clayton was paid $200.00 a month, and played  the entire season with the Oakland Larks. It was his final days in baseball, and he wanted to make the most of it.

 

Oakland Larks Baseball Club baseball player payment ledger

Oakaland Larks Baseball Club baseball player payment ledger, page 60, 1946.  Photo courtesy of the Richard T Dobbins Collection, Judith P. Dobbins, African American Museum & Library at Oakland.

 

WBCA Oakland Larks vs. S.F. Sea Lions Score Card.pdf

West Coast Baseball Association, Oakland Larks vs. S.F. Sea Lions Score Card, Oakland Larks Lineup. Photo courtesy of the Richard T. Dobbins Collection, Judith P. Dobbins. African American Museum & Library at Oakland.

 

He moved back to Philadelphia after the 1946 season ended and became a fireman.

 

Image of Zack Clayton (far right) dressed in police uniform-1940s

Zach Clayton in firemen uniform. Photo courtesy of the John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.

 

 

While he was employed as a full time Fireman, with the City of Philadelphia Fire Department, Zach learned the fine art of refereeing Boxing. By 1956, Clayton had earned the rank of Lt. of the Philadelphia City Fire Department.

From 1949 to 1984, Zach Clayton garnered a career totaling 219 bouts as a referee and 16 as a judge, including the Heavyweight Championship title fight between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott, on Sept. 23, 1952.

 

Clayton, Zack [L-R Ted Strong, Zack Clayton, Williard Jesse Brown, Jack Matchett+Bonnie Serrell]_BPA001X20

Image of Clayton pictured with members of the Kansas City Monarchs (Left to Right) Ted Strong, Zack Clayton, Willard Jesse Brown, Clarence “Jack” Matchett, Bonnie Clinton Serrell. Photo courtesy of the John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.

This is the only picture I’ve ever seen of Zach “Smiley” Clayton, out of uniform, smiling like there’s no tomorrow. Zach Clayton left us on Nov. 19 , 1997, leaving behind this lost legacy few will remember.

Greatness comes in many forms. Ali was “The Greatest” of all time, in his own right. Sometimes, greatness gets lost in the Milieu of life’s judgements and inconsistencies. How a baseball career begins or ends often leads to these judgements and inconsistencies.

Zach “Smiley” Clayton stepped beyond such things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negro League Baseball: The Reid Factor; Mel Reid-Part II

“Well, sometimes I think I will, …yes, and sometimes I think I won’t…sometimes I think I will,…yes, and sometimes I think I won’t. Sometimes I believe I do and sometimes, and then again I believe I don’t. Well, looked at the clock,…the clock struck one,…he said, “Come on daddy, have a little more fun”,…yes, we rollin’, …we rollin’ on time. ” –Wynonie Harris-“Around The Clock Part 1 and 2

Whenever i hear that song, I think about Mel Reid and Reid’s Records in Berkeley, California.

Reid’s Records went through any number of musical distribution incarnations over the years as it struggled for its own survival among the commercial-retail chain record stores and the larger independents record stores. When Tower Records, Wherehouse and Leopold’s sought to sell commercialized ‘race records’, they saw an unstoppable profit margin in a virtually untapped national market of considerable size and means. I’m showing my age now, because Leopold Records has been replaced by Amoeba Music, when Leopold Records closed its doors in 1996. Amoeba Music is only a few minutes walking distance from People’s Park in Berkeley. For this reason, a legacy of legendary folk music came out of the East Bay, and the record store’s location in reference to People’s Park, and artist that came out to record their songs in Berkeley, also became synonymous with the Free Speech Movement of the 1960’s. Berkeley was ground zero for a lot of exciting things that we take for granted today.

(note to reader: There’s a great video in the first link about Leopold Records of Joan Baez at Leupold Records in 1993, doing her impression of Bob Dylan song, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”,…and her impression of Bob Dylan also. She nails it, and she does it with love. For all you Joan Baez fans, I’ve always loved the 1965 BBC version)

As an example, the Community Memory Board was located at Leopold Records in Berkeley, and it was the first electronically accessible bulletin board system in the United States.

I’m not sure whether I should give the CMB credit for the early ethernet cafés which would eventually develop into internet cafés (ala SF Net with a large bit of Berkeley in tow) or the fact that this early concept was used to help develop the World Wide Web, but I can tell you that the CMB was one single, coin operated machine, and it was one of a kind (at least for a while). Critics say that the Community Memory Bulletin Board System is responsible for the shaping of the way we use personal computers, an also the way the computer industry is shaped today. Some say Berkeley, California is where the origins of ‘social networking‘ all began. What is not known about Berkeley that lays within the counter-culture movement, is how deep it’s record industry roots and music recording industry go.  Or how the West Coast as a ‘whole’, operates in conjunction where the history of new technology and how it applies to the recording artist are concerned.

We often look toward Los Angeles, Nashville, or New York when we think about the music or recording industry.

We never think of Berkeley.

Reid’s Records was founded in 1945, and was the first African American record stores West of the Mississippi. It was the first record stores I ever shopped at when I was a kid. It’s founder, Mel Reid was very much a renaissance man, who had his ups and downs, while his multiple career sporting fame cleared a pathway for him to become a leading businessman in the Berkeley community. That same professional sports career is often overshadowed by Mel’s ventures in the music recording industry, as a music promoter, who’s many business exploits connected him throughout his life, with some of the most interesting array of musical superstars that ever graced the stage.

I’ve only spoken briefly about Mel Reid in the past as part of Yellow Jacket duo, but the Mel ReidJohnny Allen Yellow Jacket Duo is only a small part of the Mel Reid story.

Mel Reid was much better known for his music acumen than his sporting acumen, which is fascinating because he played both professional baseball and football at a time when such a combination was unprecedented. Reid was pre-Bo Jackon and pre-Dieon Sanders, when it came to the baseball/football double punch year around professional. Few people beyond myself know about his career in sports. I doubt that most of them know Mel played both football and baseball, and and at the same time tried to create a name for himself in the music industry. Little is known about either of his sporting careers among sports aficionados, because a crossover from one to another was a rare event in those days.

Mel played for many teams in the Bay Area, and among them were the Oakland Larks (1946) (baseball) of the West Coast Baseball Association, and the Oakland Giants (1943194419451946) (football), the San Francisco Clippers (1947) (football) and the Hawaiian Warriors (1948-QB) (football) in a quote-unquote “semi”-professional football league of the “highest caliber’ known as Pacific Coast Professional Football League that existed under the GNFA.

Mel is one of those people who’s family legacy is connected with the Berkeley Colored League, as the nephew of Charlie Reid. Thomas Reid Jr., was the brother of Charles Reid of the Oakland Pierce Giants fame.

Melvin Reid was born in 1918 in Berkeley, California, to Thomas (Jr.) and Reba Reid. Melvin Reid was the oldest grandchild of Thomas Sr. and Virginia Reid. He was a handsome child and was often photographed with his aunts and uncles that close to his age.

According to the 1940 U.S. Census, Mel was living in his parents house on Acton Street at age 21.

Mel was an all-star athlete at Berkeley High School, as well as a star halfback at the University of San Francisco. He also spent a couple of years with the California Eagles semi-pro baseball team.

 

Ralph Pearce wrote a wonderful article called, “Looking Back: California’s Negro League“. I love the photograph in the article, because it not only has Johnny Allen of the Oakland Larks in it. It also has Foy Scott, who was another great East Bay Area baseball player. The ‘Ed Harris’ in this photograph, is the same Ed Harris who was the business Manager of the Oakland Larks. According to the Oakland Lark’s financial ledgers, Mel Reid was paid $275 per month to play for the Larks, which was a substantial amount of money in 1946. ‘Ike Thompson’, of course, is the same Ike Thompson that sat on the Board of Directors for the Oakland Larks and was also the Manager of the 1940 California Eagles.

Mel’s former wife, Betty Reid-Soskin, helped him start the Reid’s Record business back in 1945, when as a young couple, they began a family-owned and operated business in the basement of their small, but adequate dwelling on Sacramento Street, in Berkeley, California. These days, Betty Reid Soskin is better known as the oldest living National Park Ranger in the United States, who heads up the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond, California. During WWII, Mel also spent his time working as a playground Director at San Pablo Park, and at night in the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond. He’d pick up work wherever when ever he could.

 

Mel’s football career began in 1943 at the age of 25 with the Oakland Gaints. By the age of 27, while starting in the back field as a Halfback for the Oakland Giants (Mel would eventually play quarterback for the Hawaiian Warriors by age 30, towards the end of his football career), Mel decide to go into the music business and never once looked back. 1945 was one of Mel’s most heartbreaking years, but his drive and ambition never waned. By enlisting the help of his uncle, Paul Reid, who was a DJ on the radio program “Reid’s Record’s Religious Gems”, a weekly religious music hour was developed and produced for KRE, and from this Mel and Paul built a financially productive business, built on a dream and a prayer.

It was the Hail Mary play of a lifetime.

As the Religious Gems show’s popularity grew, Paul made his way over to KDIA where a series of programs became a daily event that lasted well into eleven straight years. of on-air publicity for Paul and Mel, which help build the business of Reid’s Records through constant promotion. Paul along with his nephew Mel, never looked back, and they went on to help influence very famous Gospel groups like the The Edwin Hawkins Singers. This was an incredible feat, because at the same time he was playing professional sports almost year around. They became quite the pair of music recording professionals. Mel was the first manager for Walter Hawkins, brother to Edwin Hawkins of The Edwin Hawkins Singers, and it was Mel that helped put “Oh Happy Day” on the charts by suggesting that Edwin meet with the executives from Buddah Records to iron out a deal for major distribution. It was one of the best decisions that Mel ever made, and every time I hear it, and can’t help but think that a baseball and football player of some renown had something to do with that choice. Rumor has it that Mel was tour manager for The Edwin Hawkins Singers when they toured Europe in 1970.

Dorothy Morrison, of the Blues Broads recounts her version of the details that placed them in capable hands of Mel Reid.

The Pacific Coast Professional Football League is rarely talked about among sporting aficionados. It wasn’t quite the NFL or AFL, but it existed at a time when the NFL was at a transitional stage in American history and it was founded during World War II, in 1943. the year that Melvin Reid enter the PCPFL, was the same year that the NFL allowed the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers merged to become the “Steagles“, and split their home games between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, because the draft and military enlistment overwhelmingly depleted the pool of men who played professional sports.

Mel gained his military deferment buy being employed in the Kaiser Shipyards (aka Richmond Shipyards) during World War II. He was part of that group of men and women that built Liberty Ships, Troops Transport Ships and LST’s. No ships, no D-Day, No D-Day, no end to World War II. With the respect to those that fought abroad, it’s a difficult task for some Americans to understand that after the destruction of Pearl Harbor and the 7th Fleet, ships to win the war would need to be built in record time, and they would be built by using African American labor in Richmond, CA at a pace never seen before in ship building history. Ships built in two-thirds the time, at one quarter the cost.

At the same time, this was a time in history when you could get a steak dinner for $2.00 at Dugan’s Cafe, or after an Oakland Giants footbal game, you could go and watch Ivie Anderson perform. She was one of the finest singers that ever lived. Ivie was one of America’s leading jazz artist, who once sang with the incomparable Duke Ellington Orchestra, with created solid hits like “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” or “I’ve Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good“. She often headlined at the North Pole Club, at 6th and Kirkham in West Oakland.

It wasn’t Slim Jenkins Club, but the joint was still jumpin’.

Rumor had it that in 1945 and under no uncertain terms, Mel Reid was a victim of the NFL’s Color Line, which began in 1934 and lasted until 1946. Major League Baseball never held a monopoly on segregation or Jim Crow during this time period in America. I dare say, and I’m sure most people reading this post can only fathom what the NFL missed by not having Mel Reid’s skills on the turf by keeping the color barrier active the year Reid was voted the Pacific Coast Professional Football League’s MVP. The NFL missed a ‘Mel Reid’, based on the color of his skin, and it’s one of the main reasons that most people never heard of Mel’s sporting prowess.

1945 was the year the NFL drafted Frankie Albert from the Pacific Coast Professional Football League, but not the MVP of the league because the MVP was black.

Then there was the other Mel. The businessman Mel. The one that couldn’t wait for a break in the world of professional sports to happen. The one that was growing older. The man who was being drawn towards a career in the music industry, which he himself measured its financial potential and invested his money and his time accordingly, as he was finding his way through life at the age of 27. The race record phenomena, imposed by a racially segregated music industry within America, had a tremendous pull on Mel Reid’s spiritual sensibilities. His only other known ambition that he ever possessed was to eventually become a driver for Wonder Bread Bakeries. The same bakery that his father, Thomas Jr. had worked for his whole life, and had never seen or ever been offered a promotion within the company ranks. Thomas (Jr.), had only ever worked on the loading docks for wonder Bread, lifting 100 lbs sacks of flour,– which was nothing to be ashamed of, but proved to be a hard, laborious task, which also lacked any upward mobility within the company ranks. The powers that be, during that period of time, would never hired Mel, as a ‘black driver’, because Mel was black, and he certainly wasn’t allowed to join the Teamsters Union back in 1945.

So,…

This is why Mel decided to go into business for himself.

Still, it was often said, by Bay Area church practitioners, that Mel was commercializing gospel music, the Lord’s Music, which was highly frowned upon by the church, and the fact that he set his goals higher than most people ever could sometimes bothered people. He not only promoted gospel music, but tried his hand at producing and recording 78’s also. Mel still had that gift of selling race records to the public. That’s what they were called back in the day, and the market place for them was huge. Mel would capitalize on how big it would become. The record that would change the Reid family’s life and set them on the road to prosperity was Wynonie Harris-“Around The Clock Part 1 and 2. Mel’s reputation for selling gut bucket Blues, Soul, and R&B to the community at large, brought even the most curious from the other side of Grove (MLK) Street. In essence, the early days of Reid’s Records was borne out of its need for survival. Gospel music became a niche market much later on, as things in the community began to change, and the South Berkeley area where Reid’s Records stood was hit with residential blight, declining home values, and major drug dealing problems.

Mel was made privy to the inside track on the Gospel music scene by buying significant radio air time on KRE, and listening to his uncle Paul. Mel was also smart enough to target his market and out advertised his all of his competitors. He also had a gift as a promoter of musical acts. In doing so, the creation of a niche market, which other competitors never bothered with, built Reid’s Records to new heights. Gospel battles, between quartets and groups, staged and promoted by Mel, Betty and Paul normally would fill the Oakland Auditorium, expanding the overflow into the large ballroom area, where as many as 7,000 people show up for these Gospel Extravaganzas. They often featured the likes of such gospel stars as James Cleveland, the Rev. C.L. Franklin and his then-teenage daughter Aretha, the Caravans, Davis Sisters, the Staple Singers and the Ward Singers

Mel was a progressive individual, whose ideas were mostly ahead of their time. One of these ideas tells a tale of a young, fledgling Aretha Franklin, who Mel decided to record in 1954. I’m not sure where those master tapes ended up, but it was long before she became a famous R&B Singer, as was still using her pipes for gospel music. It was all a risk to Mel. I’m not sure he could have lived his life anyway else. The fact is, life isn’t always good as it seems, nor is it fair, and when you’re life is based on risk taking, you will literally gamble your life away. Even though gospel music had paid off big time, Mel gambled on hedging his bet with the changes in the music industry from every angle.

The challenge for Mel was stepping outside of his marketplace, only to return and find out that what he was in search of was beyond his reach. Even with the promotion of musicians and famous musical acts that Mel sold recordings of, the larger chain stores which maintained a much larger selection than Reid’s Records could ever keep in supply. Large chain record stores were able to work with much less overhead based on their ability to buy in bulk for multiple distributors. These chains stores, along with the consistent decline in the local neighborhood environment near Sacramento Street in the mid-1970’s, Reid’s Records soon found itself on the edge of imminent demise. Mel, who was suffering from severe diabetes, would eventually have both of his legs amputated. Wrought with debt and despair Mel gave in to Betty, who had divorced Mel in 1978, and she took over the business and returned it to it’s former glory days of selling Gospel music and Choir Supplies.

Reid’d Records is still in operation, and is run by Mel’s youngest son, David. With the taste in music constantly shifting, Things still hang precariously in the balance for Reid’s Records, because the musical landscape is changing and gospel music no longer possesses the same dynamic it once did in the African American community, as it once did on a much arger scale.

Not every story that involves gospel music can have a happy ending, like Sister Act II even though they sing “Oh Happy Day“.

It is nice to know Mel had a hand on making that song.

It’s something that will live throughout eternity where Gospel music is concerned.

And then you have “Around the Clock” featuring Johnny Otis’s and his jump-swing style of music. (Otis’s real name, Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes, was another Berkeley legend, who as a white man chose to live his life as an African American, in both his professional and personal life. Which places a historical and social ‘perspective’ on Professor Rachel Dolezal choice to be “black”, within the concept that her claim of wanting to live life as a “black” person is not a new phenomena, and never has been one) Otis put the band together and Harris recorded the song,…Mel bought the “Around The Clock” record in bulk, which started the ball rolling for producing a steady cash-flow income for Reid’s Records. Of course,… there were all those other outside influences that were so distant from the gospel music scene, yet reflective of human life, human failings, and nature itself.

Well, sometimes I think I will, …yes, and sometimes I think I won’t…sometimes I think I will,…yes, and sometimes I think I won’t. Sometimes I believe I do and sometimes, and then again I believe I don’t. Well, looked at the clock,…the clock struck one,…he said, “Come on daddy, have a little more fun”,…yes, we rollin’, …we rollin’ on time. ” –Wynonie Harris-“Around The Clock Part 1 and 2

Negro League Baseball: The Reid Factor; Charles Rogers “Iron Man” Reid-Part I

I’ve decided to take a break from my ‘other’ writing to do some writing here at The Shadow Ball Express. I’m often reminded by friends, like Bill Staples, that discussions on the unknown history of baseball and using yesteryear’s comparative analysis, while applying Sabermetrics type analysis when looking at yesteryear’s ball players vs. today’s ball players can be confusing; or addressing certain subjects like ‘Deep Pitching Pools’ vs. “Shallow Pitching Pools”, and how difficult it can make be to find resolute answers, when it comes to asking questions like, “Who’s was the Greatest Home Run Hitter of All Time?”. In other words, there is no matrix for such things, especially when certain variables and unknowns still exist. Or how certain things may factor in one way or another, and how that can often makes it helpful with a modern day assessment of a player’s actual abilities and while addressing old vs. new performance standards.

The subject on this day, “HR-PP = home runs per pitcher “,..and that was this morning’s discussion. Bill asked me my view point, and and to be quite honest, after I lifetime of crunching numbers, I can’t say I really know if their is a way of making an assessment based on any stylized comparative analysis. I know that box scores are important. I also know in the case of some unknown players, they are almost nonexistent. I’ve become possessed by a stronger appreciation for the history and the facts, just shy of those all important numbers where some history of baseball is concerned, because the number weren’t always reported, based on social construct. Therefore, I continue to dig.

Based on the lack of certain known variables, which should make research easy, and a lack of accessible information, I’m often left just pondering. Here is the reason ‘why’ I think deeply, as Bill Staples so aptly put it in his blog on, “Every Baseball Era Deserves an Asterisk, Not Just the Steroid Era“. Bill states, … “The way I see it, the career numbers of Babe Ruth and his peers were “artificially enhanced” because they never faced the most talented pitchers of the Negro Leagues (Bullet Rogan, Dick Redding, Andy Cooper, etc.). Racism and the “color line” kept African-Americans out of MLB until 1947.Charles Rogers Reid was one of those great unknown pitchers of yesteryear.

Charlie Reid-Athen Elks

Charlie Reid of the Athen Elks

Charlie “Iron Man” Reid’s name is synonymous with greats like, Walter “The Great” Mails, Chick Hafey, Lefty Gomez, Buzz Artlett, Ernie Lombardi. I’m sure most people have never heard of Charlie Reid, even though they’ve seen his face a thousand times. They’ve never knew who he played against or who he was, or who he played with…and they never looked at his skill sets, because we rarely look at Negro League players beyond St. Louis or Kansas City. In other words, those of Western origins. We rarely consider that they have something to offer in the overall scope of historical value, when it comes to determining who played the game of baseball, and played it well. This story is more about all pitchers who were required to step up to the plate, long before Rule 6.10 was adopted by the American League in 1973. Duster Mails played for both the American League and the National League.

Charlie Reid would never be consider a prospect for either the National League or American League. It was a simpler time, except where skin color was concerned. This is one of those lost tales of integrated baseball. As Charlie put it, “One Sunday we played the Mails All-Stars at the First Street diamond in Richmond. Mails threw the fastest ball I ever saw–or didn’t see. No, I didn’t get any hits. We lost, 7-2. or “I pitched the best game of my life in 1923 against the Healdsburg club, the best semi-pro team in the state. Pop Arlett handled the club. I threw a one-hitter–and still lost, 1-0.

 

Charlie Reid was the son of Thomas Reid Sr. and Virginia ‘Parker’ Reid, was born in 1898 in Angles Camp, California. Thomas Reid Sr. was the personal bodyguard of Gentleman Jim Corbett, and a bouncer in many Barbary Coast saloons at the turn of the 20th Century. Thomas Reid Sr. was originally from Griffin, Georgia, who’s family headed West just ahead of a Griffin lynch mob, and “Jennie” was the grand-daughter of California Pioneer, William Henry Galt, who was originally a slave that moved West from Virginia to California, and was one of the founders of the Sacramento Zouaves of early California Militia movement, which kept California out of the hands of the Confederacy. This type of family legacy denotes that Charles would probably never consider playing baseball in the East or South, no matter how outstanding his baseball skills were.

Thomas Reid Sr.

Thomas Reid Sr.

Leila, Charlie, Tom, and Bert (front) around the time the Reids left Angels Camp in 1903

Leila, Charlie, Thomas Jr. and Bert, Angles Camp, circa 1903

Charlie Reid was one of the ‘original’ San Pablo Park Boys, who had a fruitful career in “semi-pro” baseball, as a player and an umpire. He played for any number of teams, including the Athen Elks of the Berkeley Colored League, but between 1921 and 1924, he was part of the pitching staff for the Oakland Pierce Giants. He was even invited to play for the Detroit Stars by Steve Pierce in 1924, but Charles decided that his life was better suited on the West Coast, near his very large and well established Bay Area family.

Virginia Reid and son, Charlie Reid

Mother Virginia Reid and her son, Charlie Reid

Charlie Reid-OPG

Charlie Reid, Oakland Pierce Giants

Although names like Chick Hafey, Lefty Gomez, Buzz Arlett, Duster Mails and Ernie Lombardi are well known in the annals of baseball history, Charlie Reid is not as well know as he should be. I think this bears some similarity to what Bill Staples meant when he stated, “because they never faced the most talented pitchers of the Negro Leagues”. Here’s the real eye-opener. Even if some of them did face some of the talented pitchers of all time, as Charlie was one of those, very few people know anything about these African American men that did face them in pitching duels, and/or pitcher vs. batter duels.

Charles Reid ball player

Charlie Reid, Oakland Red Sox One of my favorite articles about Charile “Iron Man” Reid

Athen Elks Win The First Champion Title-7-27-1933-i

Athen Elks Win The First Champion Title-7-27-1933-ii

The San Francisco Spokesman, The 1940 Census Record for Charles Reid has him located in Richmond, CA. It’s where he made his home, and even though he’s a Berkeley and Oakland original, Richmond claims him as their own. Shields-Reid Park is named after him, and it’s not far from his 1940 Census home address near at 610 Duboce Avenue. He lived no more than a block away.

Charles Reid-1940 U.S. Census

1940 U.S. Census for Charles Rogers Reid

Baseball was Charlie’s life. Besides playing the game, and playing it well, he also playing against some of the best players that baseball has ever produced, Charlie’s main focus was teaching the game to those who might have went a different direction, had it not been for his dedication and perseverance. Charlie Reid’s efforts, after his lengthy baseball career was to stem the tide of juvenile delinquency in the Bay Area by coaching sports, teaching sports, and umpiring sports, for less than fortunate kids,..but every one was welcomed to participate in park activities. In 1934, Charlie retired his playing for teaching and umpiring the game of baseball.

 

Charles Rodgers Reid was one of the baseball greats that no one really knows about, but I think his legacy in baseball is quite noteworthy.

Negro League Baseball: Ed Harris and the PCL

WCBA Iron Horsemen

John Ritchey, Luke Easter, unknown, Ed Harris, Artie Wilson publicity photo, circa 1948

This photo has always made ponder the question, “What are these men doing?”.

This is the second part of a column I wrote called the “The PCL and the Color Line“, which was posted by John Thorn in Our Game, that wonderful MLB blog that I hope everyone takes the time to drop by and read when they get a chance. I’d like to thank John for taking the the time to address social construct of the “color line” as a part of baseball history research, that affected both sides of a conflict which seemed to run parallel to the social structures of American history. One side was publicly seen and well documented, while the other side has researchers and members of the Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference group diligently piecing together this lost history with limited information at our access.

This is why they say, “A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words”.

I hope we can use this picture to explore the known people in this picture, and how this picture possibly came into being.

John Ritchey, Luke Easter, Ed Harris and Artie Wilson.

From this photo, one could surmise that there were two very important gentlemen in the background who remained unseen. They were very well known in the sporting world and wielded great influence and power when it came to negotiating contracts, written and verbal, and also when it came to scouts, or agents who acted as “scouts”, and Negro League players looking to break the color line in Major League baseball.

Those two gentlemen were Abe Saperstein and Bill Veeck.

Ellensburg Daily Record-5-4-1948-Pg. 8

Ellensberg Daily Record May 4, 1948

Abe Saperstein was President of the West Coast Baseball Association in 1946, and one of his associates in the newly formed league was Ed Harris, Business Manager for the Oakland Larks. We’re all aware that the WCBA didn’t last very long, but their were two teams that remained active for years beyond the 1946 disbanding of the WCBA. The Oakland Larks and the Seattle Steel Heads barnstormed the West, Midwest, the South and Canada as long as they could find teams to play against and fields to play on. The Seattle Steel Heads changed their name to the Harlem Globetrotters baseball team. They continued to barnstorm where ever they could bring in a crowd. Saperstein was officially disconnected from the former WCBA Oakland Larks by then, and continued to pursue his exploits in basketball and baseball with his early Harlem Globetrotters, and his A.M. Saperstein Sports Enterprises.

As Dr. Leslie Heaphy pointed out in her book, “The Negro Leagues: 1869-1960“, “Saperstein owned the Seattle entrant”[1].

By the same token, Saperstein chose to hide his ownership of the Seattle Steel Heads.

Following the baseball and money trail, we’ll make a stop along the early route to acknowledge the existence of  the Cincinnati Crescents, which was one of the teams that was also connected to Abe Saperstein, and one of the teams that Luke Easter starred on. The Cincinnati Crescents would eventually become the Seattle Steel Heads. Abe Saperstein also owned the Birmingham Black Barons in 1940.  Abe Saperstein created something very interesting when it came to sports management. It was a moving, living, breathing sports agency–with every finger in as many pies as he could possibly place them in. Basketball players that played baseball and vice versa.

There was a massive connection between these teams and Abe’s Sports Enterprises company, as well as the people he was formerly connected with in the WCBA when it came to moving his stable of players, or any former players like chess pieces, into the world of Major League baseball. Abe learned from his early experiences as a coach for the Savoy Big Five, that players remained loyal when they are well paid and treated with respect. Abe would make sure he would not be placed in the same position that T.Y. Baird had been placed in when Jackie Robinson accepted Branch Rckey’s offer to play in the bigs. Saperstein was also a master salesman who had no love for Jackie Robinson, and never minced words about it. The fact that Robinson could be the straw that broke the back of A.M. Saperstein Enterprises, because Robinson and Rickey were receiving massive media attention, angered Abe Saperstein. Other Negro ball players of exceptional caliber were being overlooked, and this made Abe no advocate of integration unless it was on his terms.

The Afro-American-6-15-1946-i-Pg. 14

The Afro-American-6-15-1946-ii-Pg. 14

The Afro-American June 15, 1946

The move to create the West Coast Baseball Association, as so aptly put by Dr. Heaphy, was Abe’s way of showing that “black baseball still had life” [2], and that Branch Rickey’s signing of Jackie Robinson was not a death knell to the Negro Leagues. This move also contained another aspect to Saperstein’s business ventures, which was the creation of a barnstorming slash farm venture, which helped maintain what Abe felt was his legitimate right to negotiate contracts with Major League baseball teams for players working under his A.M. Saperstien Enterprises umbrella. By maintaining the Seattle Steel Heads in the North West as a ‘silent owner’, and keeping in contact with Ed Harris, business manager of the Oakland Larks, who’s continued to barnstorm between late 1946 to 1948, in small towns all over America, Abe’s continued connections to his past associations and acquaintances would allow him to keep tabs on new and upcoming talent in Negro Baseball that wasn’t presently connected with the NNL or NAL.

The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 1997,  edited by Peter M. Rutkoff and Alvin L. Hall, mentions the deal that Abe negotiated for Veeck with the Kansas City Monarchs for Satchel Paige to pitch for the Cleveland Indians, in which Abe himself netted a hefty $15,000. In comparison, Luke Easter’s contract only cost Veeck $5,000.[3]

I’m also well aware that these statements contradict the assertion made in “A Baseball Myth Exploded” written by David M. Jordan, Larry Gerlach, and John P. Rossi, that Bill Veeck and Abe Saperstein were not in engaged together for Veeck to buy the Philadelphia Phillies and stock the bankrupt 1942 team with African American players, or as they stated “He (Veeck) did not work with Abe Saperstein and others to stock any team with Negro Leagues stars“.[4] There is a shortsighted assumption made by these gentlemen that ‘back door deals’, in general, do not take place in the world of baseball. What I mean by “back door” is a deal hidden from view of the public. or those not involved in the deal. The fact is, Veeck and Saperstein did try to do exactly that. They tried to stock the Cleveland Indians with stars, and it was a process created over time, and they used others to perform their scouting task.

As I said before, a picture is worth a thousand words.

John Ritchey-Luke Easter-Artie Wilson 1949

Luke Easter, Artie Wilson, and John Ritchey of the PCL San Diego Padres (photo courtesy of William Swank)

Here is a photo of these three gentlemen again. “Luciuous” Luke Easter, John “Hoss” Ritchey and Artie Wilson.

This is the only time I’ve ever seen Artie Wilson in a San Diego Padres uniform

We’ve established that Luke Easter’s contract was purchased by Bill Veeck, and we know that Easter previously played for the Cincinnati Crescents. Artie Wilson was also wooed by Veeck, according to Paul Dickson, in his book, “Bill Veeck, Baseball’s Greatest Maverick”. Dickson stated that Veeck “flew unannounced to San Juan to sign shortstop Artie Wilson, who was playing off-season ball for the Mayaguez Indians of the Puerto Rican Winter League but during the regular played for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues.”[5].

Of course, according to the legendary tale, New York Yankee’s general manager, George Weiss, claimed that Veeck had engaged in “unethical behavior”.[6]

When I spoke with William Swank, San Diego baseball historian, he told me that John Ritchey was a hometown boy from San Diego, so being signed by the PCL’s San Diego Padres probably had little to do with Veeck or Saperstein. What was the common denominator between Ritchey, Easter, and Willson?

Ed Harris, and Ed Harris’s connection to Abe Saperstein.

After reading “Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League“, by Martha Ackmann, I reevaluated the significance of these two pictures, along with her statement Dr. Ackmann made about a letter written by Ed Harris. The paragraph stood out to me, and I questioned: Was Ed Harris the 1st African American scout for the PCL?

“As impossible as it seemed just three years earlier, Eddie Harris, former business manager of the association, was now working for the formerly all-white Pacific Coast League, scouting black talent for the newly integrated Seals and San Diego Padres. “I believe this is the greatest chance for Negro talent here on the Coast”, he wrote. “If they make good here there is a great chance of making the big League.” Harris asked his friends to let him know of” any good players that you think could make the grade. All their expenses would be paid to California. “They’ll get the best of everything while in spring training…”act quickly,” he said”.[7]

The letter in question is one that was sent to Clifford Allen by Ed Harris in 1949.

Ed Harris Correspondence for Barnstorming Games and Business 2

The question I pose here is:

Was Ed Harris, by way of a disbanded West Coast Baseball Association, connected to an “intricate scouting system” [8], headed up by people like Abe Saperstein of A.M. Saperstein Sports Enterprises, Bill Veeck of the Cleveland Indians, and also William Starr, owner of the San Diego Padres? William Swank, who I posed this question to, does not believe it happened that way. I respect him for saying so. When I emailed Dr. Ackmann about Ed Harris’s letter to Clifford Allen on Ed Harris being a scout for the PCL, her response was that the subject matter “was not a particularly rich collection for my purposes.”. This is something I agree with also. The documentation about Ed Harris being a scout for the PCL is very lean, but they are in his own words.

I doubt if we researchers will ever find a written contract between Abe Saperstein or A.M. Saperstein Sports Enterprises and Ed Harris naming Harris as a ‘scout’ for the purposes of recruiting Negro League star players for the PCL that could eventually move up to Major Leagues.

The 1948 publicity photo and the photo of those three PCL San Diego Padres in uniform together says a lot more about Ed Harris than what is written on paper alone.

___   *  _____  *  _____  *  ____

1)  Leslie A. Heaphy, “The Negro Leagues: 1869-1960“, McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 2003, Page 213

2) ibid

3) Peter M. Rutkoff and Alvin L. Hall, “The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 1997″, McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 2000, Page 117

4) “A Baseball Myth Exploded“, David M. Jordan, Larry Gerlach, and John P. Rossi, SABR Research Paper, 1999, SABR.org,

5) Paul Dickson, “Bill Veeck, Baseball’s Greatest Maverick”, Westchester Book Group, 2012, Page 171

6) ibid, page 172

7) Martha Ackmann, “Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League, Lawrence Hill Books, 2010, Page 70

8) Burton A. Boxerman, Benita W. Boxerman, “Jews and Baseball: Volume 1, Entering the American Mainstream 1871-1948“, McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 2007, Page 138

 

Negro League Baseball: Ad Lankford vs. Jack Rogers in the Battle Royal

I post things that are not often discussed about African American baseball players, that normally deal with the social construct they chose to live in, at a given time in their life.

Gary Ashwill made a very valid comment about Bill Pettus being Sam Langford’s sparring partner on the West Coast. In fact, from what I’ve researched, many athletic clubs that boasted baseball teams also boasted ‘smokers’, as part of the overall day game event program. The fact the Ad Lankford was a part of this baseball and boxing regime just fascinates me. In my post, “Negro League Baseball: The Salt Lake Occidentals; Champions Of The West Coast“, the article had mentioned that Sam Langford and Ad Langford were “cousins”, and according to the article,  I said “Sam” Langford has replaced Jude Gans as the primary pitcher for the Salt Lake Occidentals.

I was off on that issue.

It was Ad Lankford who replaced Jude Gans,… not Sam Langford.

That is why we call it research.

Sometimes, wires get crossed, and names get mixed up–but we move forward.

In the book, “The First Black Boxing Champions: Essays on Fighters of the 1800s to the 1920s“, edited by Colleen Aycock, Mark Scott, William Pettus was noted as a sparring partner for Sam Langford, as he tried to transition in a boxing career in 1908-1909. Sam Langford, also was known as “The Boston Bone Crusher“, “The Boston Terror“, and “The Boston Tar Baby” was one of the most active and often called “The Greatest Fighter That Nobody Knows“.

Pound for pound, this Canadian born boxer was rated by Box-Rec as the 11th Greatest Fighter of All Time and 4th Greatest Heavyweight Of All Time.

Utah, being one of those great boxing venues of the early 1900’s, I’d ran across a article published in the Fall 2007 Utah Historical Quarterly  that discussed the early days of boxing, in an article called, “The Right Sort To Bring To City: Jack Johnson, Boxing, and Boosterism in Salt Lake City“, by Richard Ian Kimball. The social concept of professional sports, seldom discusses the politics upheaval that evolves from staging sporting events between opposing social classes, especially when one group of citizens are being denied rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, based on social construct. In that day and age, laws such as the Mann Act could be manipulated to corral, and even destroy the career of a person of color, should they be considered to have engaged in acts of moral turpitude.

Jack Johnson was one of those people who had his life decimated by these inherently persuasive and unbalanced arguments, based on the skin color of a person. Yet–the idea of engaging Jack Johnson for a no-holds bar boxing event, designed to feed the masses the tales of inequities and inequality on one side, and promote racial superiority on the other side, while making huge sums of money for promoting such ideologies, was not so uncommon in the early 1900’s. There is also the other side of the financial coin, when it came to job opportunities. The two professional sports that African Americans were allowed to participate in, while calling themselves “professional” were baseball and boxing, and baseball was segregated. Boxing, however, was as much a social event which connected communities across color-lines, as was baseball. On July 4th, 1910, the most important fight in American history would take place in Reno, Nevada, between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries.

It would be promoted as “THE FIGHT OF THE CENTURY”.

That is a lot to live up to.

Kimball states, “Political and cultural differences in Salt Lake City coalesced around the Johnson-Jeffries fight and prizefighting generally. In the months leading up to the title fight, boxing received unprecedented attention in the city’s daily newspapers. Editorials excoriating the sport as immoral and unjustified used boxing as a symbol of a larger rift. In short, support of boxing became associated with the American Party (a coalition of anti-Mormon ministers, businessmen, and professionals that had taken control of the Salt Lake City municipal government in 1905) and the unrestrained pursuit of economic growth.Those who denounced the sport implicitly criticized the direction of local government in favor of a more moral-based regulatory system. Moreover, two other local issues—race relations and civic boosterism— were bound up in the symbol of prizefighting.The heavyweight title fight may have been on the lips of civic reformers, but their hearts were set on controlling the future of Salt Lake City.”

Cut to Ad Lankford… AKA Ad Langford the Boxer
Salt Lake Tribune-5-14-1911
Salt Lake Tribune, May 14, 1911
Salt Lake Tribune, 1911-05-12, Langford-Drumgoole

Salt Lake Tribune, May 12, 1911

Ad Lankford AKA Ad Langford the boxer had made an attempt to be a boxer in the early days of his baseball career. Lankford was certain that he possessed pugilistic skills that would take him to the top of the boxing profession. According to an article run by the Salt Lake Telegram, dated May 13, 1911, Ad Lankford had been “clamoring for a match with Jack Rogers“, and looked at the scheduled bout with Jack Drumgoole as a “stepping stone to that end”. Drumgooole vowed he would have his way with Lankford, even though Lankford outweighed him, and stated after he was through with Lankford, “Ad will be content to go back to baseball”.

Salt Lake Tribune, 1911-05-14

Salt Lake Tribune, May 14, 1911

The long and short of is, Lankford lost the fight by a decision on points. He didn’t get knocked out, but he learned his lesson well enough and never returned to the ring. Louis “Ad” Lankford went on to play baseball leaving his mark on the world, and I often wonder if that single match against Jack Drumgoole didn’t have something to do with Lankford making the decision to remain in baseball, and leave off boxing forever. Still, times were hard and money was even harder to come by. I’ll speak more on this type of cross event baseball and boxing employment option later on.

Negro League Baseball: African American Baseball, History And Archaeology

On October 17, 1989, at 5:04 PM,  just as game number 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s was about to get underway, an earthquake rated between 6.4 and 7.1 magnitude hit the Bay Area with a jolt that would not soon be forgotten. The Loma Prieta Earthquake, which took down the Nimitz 880 Freeway Cypress Street Viaduct upper level, would change the way this writer would look at history and baseball forever. 42 people in West Oakland lost their lives, 41 of them on that day. It’s been stated that there would have been many more deaths that day if it wasn’t for the World Series taking place between these cross bay rivals. Most people would be at home, either waiting to watch the game or listen to it on the radio. Game number 3 was postponed till Oct. 27, 1989. The A’s would sweep the series with in 4 straight games.

1989-Cypress_collapsed

Cypress Street Viaduct, Nimitz Freeway, West Oakland, 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

It would be 25 years later when I was called upon to identify some information concerning the West Coast Baseball Association artifacts, and tell whatever history I could about them, and explain their existence as a league. The information on them has always been sparse at best, but even more so, because the history of West’s Oakland’s 7th Street had been ‘tanked’ long before Loma Prieta had occurred. The history that proceeded the WCBA and how they evolved was based on land that was taken through eminent domain, which reached back beyond the year of 1954, when the Oakland City Council decided that it would tank-doze a neighborhood of West Oakland’s Black Bottom, as part of its proposed urban community redevelopment and revitalization program. This urban renewal project would leave a long stretch of barren land, until the completion of the double decker Cypress Freeway opened in 1957. Worse of all, is would leave a gap in Bay Area baseball history.

Tank Demolition

Demolition of West Oakland neighborhood by the lowest bidder, using modified Sherman Tanks

Construction Of The Cypress Freeway

Future building site of the Nimitz Freeway Cypress Street Viaduct  exchange in West Oakland.

Cypress Freway Excahnge-1

The Double Decked Cypress Interstate 880 Freeway

I relish the experience of searching through old records, uncovering West Coast baseball action as it happened in the Bay Area from the late 1800’s through World War II. I’m often reminded, from time to time of how fast this community grew, into something that was phenomenal, and still to this day is very much misunderstood. The stories of 7th Street, the “Black Broadway” of the West, and its surrounding neighborhoods, formed a legacy most recently forgotten by the people who dwell there now. It is a vast journey that has taken a hold on my senses. I’m determined to share as much of this rich history as I can, for much of it is buried and slowly being uncovered. One of the many stories of West Oakland involves two very well known baseball players: Jimmy Claxton and Harold “Rowdy” Elliot.

Jimmy Claxton Story-I Wonder If He Remembered-2-22-1943

The San Francisco Spokesman, Sporting Spice column by Byron “Speed” O’Reilly,  February 22, 1934

When the Cypress Street Viaduct fell, the City of Oakland in its rush to rebuild the freeway after the tragedy that would known as Loma Prieta, had to take a step back in time when demolition crews found items from the Oakland’s historical past. Sonoma State University assisted Cal-Trans in what would come to be known as the Cypress Archaeological Project, as part of the plan to rebuild the 880 freeway exchange, and in doing so helped reroute a communal pathway which was much less obstructive. Together these two entities decided to jointly research and document over 500,000 artifacts that covered a 48 block area of new freeway construction. Over 2,500 archeological features were also uncovered from Oakland past history, of which 121 were determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

But sometime a plaque is not enough to tell one hundred plus years of history. It seems 7th Street was always a throughway for train traffic and a route for transportation.

Fourth & Sixth Ward-West Oakalnd Map-1878

I took the time to input just 9 members that lived in the Black Bottom and I mapped their addresses from their 1940 U.S. Census records. These men who had played in the Berkeley Colored League, had a huge connection to West Oakland based on two simple things; San Pablo Park and the Key System. The outcome of the results was fascinating. It created a small, tight cluster that explained a lot about social boundaries and how communities grow.

1) San Pablo Park

2) The Key System

The Key System Electric Train Transit

With the coming “revitalization” of West Oakland after World War II, and the decline of employment in the war industries located in the East Bay Area, a financial shift took place that would disconnect Berkeley from West Oakland. The history of East Bay baseball and the baseball stars that it had created, those who traveled between these two cities, would fight to keep that history alive, as best they could. One of the leading families in West Oakland, that very few people remember or talk about, was the Bercovich family, who owned E. Bercovich & Sons furniture store, on the corner of 7th and Franklin in the heart of the Black Bottom. Bercovich & Sons furniture teams sponsored many great baseball players, during their time on the West Oakland, and here is the short list:

1) Curt Flood

2) Vada Pinson

3) Frank Robinson

4) Willie Stargell

5) Kevin Maas

6) Rickey Henderson

7) Dave Stewart

8) Randy Johnson

9) Joe Morgan

10) Don Wakamatsu

11) Charlie Beamon

13) Bill Rigney

14) Jackie Jensen

15) Ed Fernandes

Sam Bercovich and Curt Flood-1955

Sam Bercovich and Curt Flood

Curt Flood’s Civil Rights activism was a big part of creating Baseball’s Free Agency advocacy that still stands today. His lawsuit would soon bring the “reserve clause” in Major League Baseball contracts to a slow, but eventual grinding halt. Sam Bercovich stood by Flood, when others would not. Even when he began to receive death threats. Bill Staples had mentioned to me in passing, after reading “Negro League Baseball: Lefty Gomez vs. The Berkeley Pelicans“, how he would like to know more about Dudlely Jones of the Berkeley Pelicans. I can tell him that Dudley graduated from the same high school as Curt Flood, Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson, and Bill Russell.

Dudley Jones-McClymonds High School-Mar. 30-1933

The San Francisco Spokesman, Sporting Spice column by Byron “Speed” O’Reilly,  March 30, 1933

Sometimes through eminent domain- land is lost, and within that loss, so is history. Eventually, after years of contract negotiations and barren soil, BART would replace the ‘A line that ran down 12th Street from East Oakland through West Oakland and on to Emeryville connecting Berkeley and Oakland. In order to do away with so much of the 7th Street and West Oakland’s history, a huge swath of homes were demolished for the purpose bettering the community. What this actually did for many years, in retrospect, is conquer and divide the Oakland and Berkeley African American communities, upending their history which had been created since the late 1800’s and went well into the early 1960’s. In doing so, this new construction destroyed the a huge legacy belonging to a multitude of cultures with connected experiences yet to be explored. Yes, this modern mode of transportation which exist today, buried almost a century of African American history that intermingled with Chinese, German, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, Irish, Greeks, Slavs, French and Mexican, laid under asphalt and concrete, until that fateful day on October 17, 1989.

BART And 7th Street-construction-1968-bottom-photo_5a

7th Street West Oakland BART raliway construction in the 1960’s

Esther’s Orbit Room is the last remaining jazz and blues club holdout in the Black Bottom. Back in the day though, the spot to be was Harold “Louisiana Slim” Jenkins Place. Slims Place began with a liquor store in 1934, one  month to the the day prohibition ended. Rumor had it, that between him and Charles E. “Raincoat” Jones, the bootleg whiskey they’d sold during the tough times of the Depression would no longer be required to make a living wage, which made the boys in Road to Perdition Boys in Emeryville quite upset. Slim and Raincoat were a big part of their distribution chain. 7th Street was a place where anyone who was anyone hung out, and that included President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose yacht the USS Potomac still sits in the Oakland Estuary, and has become a major tourist attraction in Jack London Square. Slim Jenkins had operated his liquor business’s on 7th Street long before he built his World Famous Slim Jenkins Night Club.

Slim Jenkins Liqour Store Ad-1-18-1934-ii

The San Francisco Spokesman, Jan 4, 1934

Slim Jenkins Place 2-7th Street

Slim Jenkins Place circa 1950’s

Map Legend Of West Oakland

Map of West Oakland circa 1940’s

I do realize that I talk about teams, leagues, and early African American baseball players that most people have never heard about, and that is because they all dwelled in locations far West of Kansas City and St. Louis. These untold tales about men most have never heard of are the ones that piqued my interest most of all, and by their shear design, they are stories that must be told for future reference and further research into their lives, and their particular narratives. That’s why I joined SABR. Because without a Jimmy La Blanc or Dudley Jones, there would have never been a Curt Flood of Ricky Henderson. When the African American baseball stories are crushed by newly laid concrete or paved over with hot asphalt, the story of Ed and Sam Bercovich, one a founding father of West Oakland baseball and one of baseball’s greatest philanthropist, who then passed on his legacy to his son–we also find that their stories will be buried in the vault of time.

Jack London lived in West Oakland in the late 1800’s, and his novel “Valley Of The Moon” was set in West Oakland. The California League began in West Oakland in 1879, and played at the park called the Oakland Baseball Grounds, located between 13th and 14th Streets, with cross streets of Kirkham and Center. The music created on 7th Street is being heavily documented as we speak, but the baseball of West Oakland is being forgotten. I sometimes wonder how Robert Louis Stevenson felt when he wrote Silverado Squatters, because there was a town in California called ‘Silverado’, even though it was an abandoned mining town that lived through the ravages of the quicksilver rush of 1873.

The Harlem of The West Coast was found on West Oakland’s 7th Street, and so was a whole lot more history. I’m not sure if 7th Street was where “Rowdy” Elliot outed Jimmy Claxton for being ‘black’ and not ‘white’, while having him removed from the Oakland Oaks pitching staff, but from the story related by Speed in his column, I’d have to say it was more than likely the truth, than just some far-fetched story for the sake of printing gossip. J. Cal Ewing was a staunch defender of all-white baseball for the American public, and was known to have stated his feelings in the newspapers about African Americans sportsmen, playing the sport we all love so much. I hope to write many more stories about baseball in the West–very soon. Baseball has many layers and stories. I just hope it doesn’t take another major earthquake to unearth more items that substantiate facts pertaining to this lost history, or another 25 year break in the lull to create a real interest in them.

Negro League Baseball: Judge John Bussey, Sunny Jim Bonner and Joe DiMaggio

A long, long time ago in a city called San Francisco, there was this team called the San Francisco Giants. This is what they were  called. The year was 1934….

S.F. Giants Cop Another Triple Decides Contest-9-20-1934-i

The San Francisco Spokesman, September 20, 1934

Wait,..1934?

In 1934, John W. Bussey and Henry Williams would sponsor a African American baseball team called the San Francisco Giants. I find this interesting because these San Francisco Giants were not a part of the Berkeley Colored League. They played predominantly in San Francisco as an Independent semi-professional team, that scheduled games with teams all over San Francisco and East Bay Area, most of them being Caucasian. It is said that Byron “Speed” O’Reilly and James W. Bussey had a standing rivalry, who’s Acorn and Alpha Phi Alpha club teams faced off many, many times–in the name of fun, and the loser would be responsible for supplying the winning team with a sumptuous feast with all the trimmings.

John W. Bussey-Ebony Magazine-July 1962

Judge Hon. John W. Bussey, Ebony Magazine July 1962 Issue

John “Buzz” Bussey was a Harvard Law graduate, who was also a extremely athletic competitor, in both boxing and baseball. This seemed to be the one-two punch, sports combination during the Great Depression, that most team owners, managers, and promoters worked on, trying to make an extra buck while pursuing their steadfast careers. Byron promoted every sport he could, while pursuing a career in the arts and entertainment. John’s focus while playing the game was much different. He was a community builder. A man of integrity, an Alpha Phi Alpha, John Bussey began his career in law while being a formidable Bay Area sports figure.

Amateur Boxing Instructor John Bussey-May 11, 1933

The San Francisco Spokesman, May 11, 1933

The 1940 U.S. Census states that John W. Bussey was born in 1905, in Georgia. I’ve found no information how he arrived in California. He lived in Oakland, even though he operated his law office on Sutter Street in the city of San Francisco. Beyond being a boxing instructor, he also taught law and prepared those who wanted to pass the bar exam with flying colors. He was one of California’s earliest Civil Right attorney’s and often represented the N.A.A.C.P. on discrimination cases long before the Civil Rights movement gathered national steam in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In many respects, he was ahead of his time. in 1949, the law offices of Bussey, Montgomery & Smith could be found in San Diego on Imperial Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. He was one of the founding members of the Charles Houston Bar Association in 1955. Like Mayor Lionel Wilson of Oakland who became the first African American to sit on the bench in Alameda county, John Bussey who was his friend and his counterpart, became the first African American judge to sit on the bench in the county across the bay in San Francisco.

John W. Bussey-1940 U.S. Census

1940. U.S. Census Record for John W. Bussey

When “Buzz” Bussey decided he wanted something out of life, there was very little that could stop him from doing just that. When Bussey decided that he would manage and play on the 1934 San Francisco Giants, and that he would stock his team full of as much talent as he could possibly find, he pulled them from the East Bay and San Francisco. Sunny Jim Bonner, as he was called in 1934, had a ‘million dollar arm’, and by all accounts Bonner was a well known pitcher in the East Bay Area, long before he played for the Berkeley Colored League or the Dai Tokyo in Japan.  It’s true what they say about Sunny Jim, the submariner, for he had pitched no-hitters before he played for the Berkeley International League. Most of them were with the 1934 San Francisco Giants.

Jim Bonner Pitches No-Hit Game For S. F. Giants Team-7-26-1934-i

The San Francisco Spokesman, July 26, 1934

He lost games also.

Ernie Elliot lost this one against the Salesian Jolly Knights. Back then they just called them the San Francisco Boys Club.

S.F. Giants Lose-Go To Market For New Players-8-9-1934-i

S.F. Giants Lose-Go To Market For New Players-8-9-1934-ii

S.F. Giants Lose-Go To Market For New Players-8-9-1934-iii

The San Francisco Spokesman, August 9, 1934

Now, here’s where it gets confusing.

Both Joe DiMaggio and his younger brother, Dom DiMaggio, played shortstop before they went to the majors. Joe was supposedly out of action with a career threatening knee injury early in 1934, missing more than 70 games for the San Francisco Seals, but it is a known fact that he had played for the San Francisco Boy Club for many years prior to this injury. Joe fell off the baseball grid in 1934, and his career ending knee injury has possessed that quality of mystery. The question is, would he have picked up games with the S.F.B.C. whenever he could to make a few bucks? Graham’s $75,000 firm asking price as a New York Yankee was out of focus for Depression era baseball. $25,000 was the final agreed upon price tag for the future Yankee Clipper. In 2006, there was an auction of his 1932 S.F.B.C. ring, which had an estimated value between $5,000 and $7,500. For you collectors of finer DiMaggio artifacts, Item 1013 Did Not Sell. The ring itself proves there was a Joe DiMaggio stint with the S.F.B.C. no matter what name they played under.

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 9.49.45 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 9.49.56 PM

Joe’s connection to this game between the 1934 San Francisco Giants goes a little deeper. There are two players on the S.F.B.C. team with the last name “Baumgartner” in the line up. In the book, “Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life“, by Richard Ben Cramer“, a “Bummy” Baumgartner” is mentioned, to the effect of in 1932, he paid Joe to play a pick up game with his team called Sunset Produce. Joe was a ball hawk, and he liked money. Joe bailed on his team, Rossi Olive Oil, and Dom was left playing with the guys that they started the team with. Sandlot ball was a rough game back in the day. Especially during the Depression. The things that Joe DiMaggio had in common with Lefty Gomez was 1) money demands, 2) Bill Essick, and 3) those wonderful San Pablo Park baseball players.

Now, also in 1934, Dom was senior at Galileo High School. The story goes… in 1934, Dom played ball for the North Beach Merchants, another semi-pro San Francisco Sandlot team in, while working at Simmons Mattress Factory. If that isn’t confusing enough, in the 1940 San Francisco Industrial League, Marino “Red” Petri pitched for the Simmons Co. Baseball Team, while Frank Sancimino played Left Field, and Sam Tringoli played 2nd Base.

1941_Simmons_Mattress Cutaway

If I had to guess, when posed with the question, “Was the San Francisco Bay Area instrumental in helping expedite the concept of playing desegregated baseball?“, my answer would be a resounding “Yes“. I would give the same answer if asked, “Was John W. Bussey a integral part of integrated baseball in America?”. If some one asked me, “How old was Hilary “Bullet” Meaddows, when he hit that long ball triple that drove in Bussey and Bonner against Golden State Meat in 1934?“, the answer would be 42, hence the comment “despite his tender years”.

But…if someone asked me, “Was it Joe or Dom that played Shortstop against the San Francisco Giants of 1934?”, my answer would be…

“Your guess is as good as mine!”

Negro League Baseball: The Salt Lake Occidentals; Champions Of The West Coast

These articles comes from interesting conversations I’ve been having with Bill Staples, who picks my brain every now and then by e-mail, whenever he can pull himself away from his work. We often discuss African American baseball West of the line that divides this nation almost in half, and both of us ponder the untapped territory of stories that remain untold. New stories that are also intrinsically connected past stories that have been repeated told the masses. The Salt Lake Occidentals is one of those stories.

L.A.Herald-Nov.28-1909-i-Occidental Line Up

Salt Lake Occidental Baseball Team, Los Angeles Herald, November 28, 1909

You might have heard of them before. Often referred to as the Occidentals of Los Angeles, is the name most people know it as. They began their life in Salt Lake City, Utah–which helped produce such players as Bill Pettus (1909-1910) and Jude “Judy” Gans (1906-1907). The Los Angeles ‘name’ transition all began, when after winning 94 out of 104 games in Utah, the Salt Lake Occidentals decided to move to Los Angeles and challenge all teams on the Western frontier. All comers were accepted, along with the side bets that followed to make the games interesting.

***The Herald-Republican-10-13-1909-Pg. 6

The Herald-Republican, October 13, 1909

***L.A. Herald-10-13-1909-Pg. 13

L.A. Herald, October 13, 1909

***L.A. Herald-10-16-1909-Pg. 12

L.A. Herald October 16, 1909

I believe the Salt Lake Occidentals is where Jude Gans cut his pitching teeth as in 1906.

Jude Gans-Occidentals vs. Bells-7-13-1906

Occidentals vs. Bells, Salt Lake Tribune, July 13, 1906

By early 1908, after being a leading hurler for the Salt Lake Occidentals for the 1906 and 1907 seasons, Jude Gans was replaced by “Sam” Langford, who was a cousin of the young, Bill Pettus.

Bill Pettus-Sam Langford-10-22-1910

L.A. Herald, October 22, 1910

I’m just tossing these articles out here to stir up conversation, get the blood flowing,… see if anyone is interested. Anyone out there from Wyoming, or near Diamondville,  ever heard of the “Africans”?

Negro League Baseball: What Would Johnny Do? The Story Of Johnny Allen Of The Oakland Larks.

Johnny Allen (SS)-Oakland Larks

Johnny Allen, Shortstop for the Oakland Larks (WCBA)

Using a wonderful quote made by Sammie Haynes, catcher for the Kansas City Monarchs, from the book “Black Baseball In Kansas City” written by Larry Lester and Sammy J. Miller, “Sammie, would you rather go to Heaven or Kansas City?” he would have said, “Lord I’ll see you later, but right now I want to go to Kansas City”. The quote itself has been retold any number of ways. The idea behind the story was true of many baseball players who were given the opportunity to play for the Kansas City Monarchs. Johnny Allen was one of those players, but he chose to stay and play for the Oakland Larks of the West Coast Baseball Association instead of going to Kansas City.

Sammie Haynes played three years for the Kansas City Monarch, and in his early days, he played for the Atlanta Black Crackers. Sammie Haynes also managed the Atlanta Black Crackers from 1945 to 1947. He founded the International Society Of Athletes in Los Angeles. At the best of times, in his own words, Sammie Haynes made $200 a month, netting $140 or less after meal expenses. Not much is known about Johnny Allen, except he was an exceptional athlete, who played baseball, basketball, and football, and played all three at ‘professional’ level. Johnny’s talents in sports was recognized at an early age as a Berkeley High Yellow Jacket. He was the other half of the Mel ReidJohnny Allen Yellow Jacket Duo. Mel Reid, nephew of Charlie Reid, is a baseball story in itself.

Johnny Allen’s talent as a heavy hitting shortstop could be seen in his early years when he was batting .475 for the Junior American Legion, Berkeley Post No. 7, for Coach Elgin Erickson. Johnny went on to play baseball, football, and basketball for the San Jose State Spartans. As a basketball player for the San Jose Spartan team, he earned the nickname, “The Ebony Express”. based on his level of playing endurance, by playing a total of 555 minutes out of a possible 660 total minutes playing time for the 1940 Spartan Basketball season. Producing an 84% ‘off the bench and on the court’ time was a new San Jose State record, for this hard playing, Spartan defensive point guard.

In 1946 (according to Baseball-Reference.com), the replacement shortstop for Jackie Robinson, Jim Hamiton, played one part of the 1946 season with the San Francisco Sea Lions of the West Coast Baseball Association, and spent his remaining time with the 1946 season with the Kansas City Monarchs, until a 1946 Negro League World Series game injury knocked him out of baseball for good. Israel Harvey suffered a dislocated knee, and Hamilton received a broken leg on a attempted double play. I’m not sure if it was HaroldYellowhorse” Morris‘ idea to send Jim to Kansas City, but I’m sure he was happy for him. Hamilton was them replaced by Othello “Chico” Renfroe, the star of the 1946 Negro League World Series. Recently, a book was written about William “Youngblood” McCrary, called “A Legend Among Us” by Linda Pennington Black. where a claim is made that he was the Jackie Robinson replacement shortstop between 1946 to 1948.

T.Y. Baird, who in 1946, was the main Kansas City Monarch scout, recruiter, and game scheduler when professional baseball was in its greatest transition.  The fact the Branch Rickey never contacted T.Y. Baird when it came to Jackie Robinson’s transitioning to AAA ball without Baird’s permission, and then on to the Majors, remained a sore spot with Baird for years to come.  T.Y Baird was a wheeler dealer when it came to contracts and signing talent for the Kansas City Monarchs. I think the only time he ever kicked himself was for not have a long-term contact with rookie shortstop, Jack Robinson. He vilified Branch Rickey for “stealing” what he considered his “property”. I’ve never quite understood Baird’s disdain for Rickey on the issue of not including in the Robinson crossover. It been said by those who knew of him, that Baird ransacked leagues all over the nation for African American talent, wherever he could find it, without any concern for the team or leagues he pillaged from. Never the less, he raked Rickey over the media coal, because he felt slighted.

Between 1946 and 1956, Baird sold 38 of these African American players, 29 of them to Major League teams, making an exorbitant amount of return on his initial investment. Near his retirement date, he had the nerve to complain that all that was left was 4 ballplayers and a bus driver. Tim Rives essay on T.Y. Baird called, “Tom Baird: A Challenge To Modern Memory Of The Kansas City Monarchs“, found in “Satchel Paige And Company“, edited by Leslie A. Heaphy, is an astounding piece of research that unveils Baird’s innate acumen as a cunning business man, who saw African American players as nothing more than chattel property, absent of human qualities and personal needs to excel at their profession. Possessing a discrimination factor and depth of perception so acute, that Baird himself could not see the writing on the wall of Major League Baseball change, and basically destroyed all that he built, while laying the blame at Rickey’s feet. Even with his connections to the Ku Klux Klan, posing as a political figurine, and the mere suggestion of being related to Cole Younger of the Jesse James-Cole Younger gang, speaks of how deep his connections to the Knights Of The Golden Circle really were.

Still, he was not infallible.

Baird, in no uncertain terms, was a Donald Sterling archtype character of that period in baseball history.

Baird was no angel; he was a pirate.

Baird gave the pretense of being a ‘farmer’, but people were disposable to him.

So far we have rookie shortstop who takes the risk and decides not to return to the World Champions Kansas City Royals, moving on to bigger and better things with the Montreal Royals, and another heavy hitting shortstop who was a former West Coast Baseball Association player, with a broken leg which now ended his baseball career permanently. What would Johnny Allen do? How would he look at these things and his future? So far as stories go, it wouldn’t end here. I ran across some correspondence between Ed Harris, manager of the Oakland Larks and Co-Founder of the West Coast Baseball Association and T.Y. Baird of the Kansas City Monarchs. I was compelled to share it with those who might have an interest in such research, because people often assume that the West Coast Baseball Association was an inferior league, with inferior players. Research on the subject has proven solidly to the contrary. The WCBA is just not as well studied as other leagues as it should be. The following letter, seen below, is in response to Ed Harris requesting a few practice sessions and possible exhibition games with the Kansas City Monarch after becoming WCBA Champions, and seeing if Mr. Baird could find it possible to arrange a few games with the 1946 Champions Oakland Larks.

Ed Harris Correspondence With T.Y. Baird For Johnny Allen-Poaching Business 1

T.Y. Baird correspondence with Ed Harris, Oct. 22, 1946

One can look at this letter any number of ways. Baird’s reasoning seems forced, but as a business man, who was often perceived as a hard man of ideals, also realizes that he’s pulled one over on Abe Saperstein and Ed Harris by acquiring Jim Hamilton at the end of the 1946 season, when the San Francisco Sea Lions were out of the running. At that time, owners of professional baseball teams, both from the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball, were on the hunt for prospective additions to their teams and new talent that would match the Robinson move made by Branch Rickey. Those that were selling contract were buying new ones, and those that were buying were paying hefty prices for this inexplicable “new” commodity, even though it had been around for many years. Baird never considered the West Coast Baseball Association a viable ‘professional’ league, unless he could use it as his own personal farm. Then his attitude was much more amenable, when it benefited his wants and desires. Ed Harris was no one’s fool, and Baird assumed the Ed Harris and the West Coast Baseball Association was easy pickings.

Ed Harris Correspondence With T.Y. Baird For Johnny Allen-Poaching Business 2

T.Y. Baird correspondence with Ed Harris, January 6, 1947

It was a well known fact, that Johnny Allen was considered by the International League, who had followed him the summer of 1946, to be the next Jackie Robinson. If the truth be told, so did T.Y. Baird. Baird, in respect to Ed Harris, could never be ‘too condescending’. It was in his nature as a negotiator to make those he dealt with feel inferior to him, especially if they were African American, and well educated. In making a stab at a request to buy Johnny Allen’s contract from Ed Harris and the Oakland Larks franchise, Baird’s comment about “if you want to give him a shot to go up”, while at the same time refusing to schedule any games with his Kansas City Monarchs, present us with Baird’s air of superiority stands out above all. In other words, –‘Your team and your players aren’t good enough to schedule a game with, however–I’d like to buy one of them from you–if you can see your way to release him to me for a $300 bribe‘.

As an added insult, Baird “suggest” that Ed Harris “write  a little slower”, as not to appear too intelligent in the face of Baird’s self-aggrandizing awesomeness. These are moments that either make one cringe, or accept the devil in the details of how things really happened in those days, without the necessity of sugar coating them for posterity’s sake. Baird was who he was, and Ed Harris was who he was. They both butted head, proudly, at a time when the greatest game in the world would change the American perception of how people of color should be accepted in a nation undergoing undeniable shifting, that would offer no other choice but to move it forward.

It was also a time of great confusion.

Spokane Daily Chronicle-8-14-1946-Pg. 13

Spokane Daily Chronicle, August 14, 1946

I do not know if “Effa Cared More Than Jackie?!?!?!?“, which was asserted by Lawrence Rushing at the 2014 Jerry Malloy Conference in Detroit. Ryan Whirty who wrote this blog gives a blow by blow details of what Mr. Rushing asserted that brought the house down. Such comparative analysis often requires proof. When proof is presented, then said assertions are undeniable. 1945, 1946 and 1947 were a time of tremendous upheaval in the all professional MLB, AAA baseball, and semi-professional baseball, with a change that would ignite conflicting political stances across the board. Things would never be the same again, and that would certainly sadden some and uplift others. Johnny Allen spent 1946 with the Oakland Larks, as their heavy hitting shortstop. He spent 1947 and 1948 on the road, barnstorming the United States and elsewhere with the Oakland Larks, even though the West Coast Baseball Association disbanded after only one season. Finding places that would allow them to play presented more of a challenge when it came to all the changes that were taking place in the United States and also on the West Coast.

There’s no telling what Johnny Allen would have done, or how far he could of gone if he had a mentor like Branch Rickey.