William H. Carroll and James M. Alexander: The ‘Trilbys of Los Angeles’ And Their Early Years

Early Los Angeles was pretty much the wild and woolly West, and it remained that way for a considerable period of time during the late 1800’s. In 1895, Los Angeles was significantly smaller than both San Francisco and Oakland in population size, totaling around seventy-five thousand people spread throughout the Greater Los Angeles area. To be more a little more specific, in 1895 “Los Angeles” was nicknamed “Angel City”. Los Angeles was not free from the national economic depression, caused by the Panic of 1893 which spread Westward, creating a greater fear in agrarian based economies that had collapsed all over the world. This period prompted the beginning of the “Free Silver” movement all over the nation.

The free silver highwayman at it again – Keppler. Abstract, Library of Congress

Charles F. Lummis walked from Ohio to Los Angeles, in 1884, and a little over a decade later — he published a magazine promoting Los Angeles as “The Land Of Sunshine“: The city itself sat directly in the center of the a series of valleys, mountains and peat fields — that stretched from Simi Valley to the San Gabriel Valley, surrounded by a series of “Ranchos” in the Los Angeles flat lands, — where many towns that exist today had not yet been incorporated into cities of their own, as extensions of modern day Los Angeles.

“Rancho Los Feliz”, “Rancho San Rafael”, “Rancho Pasqual Pasadena”, and “Rancho Santa Anita” all sat to the North of Los Angeles. “Rancho Francisquito”, “Rancho Potrero Grande”, “Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo”, and “Rancho Merced” all sat to the East of Los Angeles. “Rancho San Antonio” sat to the South East of Los Angeles. “Rancho Tajuata” and “Rancho San Pedro” sat to the South of Los Angeles. “Rancho Sausal Redondo”, “Rancho Aguaje de la Centinela”, “Rancho la Ballona”, “Rancho Cienega O’Paso de la Tijera”, “Rancho Las Cienegas” and “Rancho La Brea” sat to the East of Los Angeles.

Partial “Rancho Map” of Early Los Angeles – E. T. Wright Los Angeles County Map 1889
1894 -1985 Map of Los Angeles County – “Progress of Los Angeles”

And those “Ranchos” were surrounded by even more “Ranchos”, bordered by the Angeles National Forest, Ventura County, and Orange County (which came by its name honestly), and the Pacific Ocean. The “Orange Belt Line” of the Southern Pacific was used as a means of travel to connecting Southern California cities; Riverside, Redlands, Pomona, Port of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Santa Barbara.

Entertainment at that time was sparse and varied because beyond farming and land acquisition there was very little to do in Los Angeles, — other than watching horse racing, boxing, or going to cribs, bars, and attending baseball games for amusement. Unless of course one was more prone to watching the errant gun fight, which could also be found near “Calle de los Negros“, or “Street of the Blacks“. Calle de Los Negros was an interesting plot of land at the core of early Los Angeles, which would also become Downtown Los Angeles, home to early film making in El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles de la Porciúncula. It was the place where Los Angeles began in 1781, and 42 of the original 44 Pobladores were “People of Color”. Over fifty percent of these early settlers were African Diaspora men, women, and children, — whose racial designation was based solely on the Spanish Casta system of lineage put in place at that time is was settled. Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd often used Calle de los Negros for location shoots, and other surrounding businesses as well — for many of their film classics. In early Los Angeles, it was all about the challenge. The hardened challenge. Building a city on top of the desert presented an immense challenge. Finding access to water presented a tremendous challenge. Even making a movie in those early days of Los Angeles presented a challenge. But coming from those challenges, or taking up those challenges, a great many things came out of those challenges, – whether they were win, – lose, – or draw.

When William”Will” Carroll and James M. Alexander were presented with the challenge to field and fund an African American baseball club in early Los Angeles, which at the time was one of America’s most racist cities for that particular period in history, they both knew that the obstacles they would face would be almost insurmountable. No guts, no glory, as the story goes and with a boldness of heart, they placed their first advertisement in the Los Angeles Herald in 1895. It was a come one come all proposal, to watch the spectacle of this grand social experiment that was about to unfold before your very eyes. Baseball was seen as a white man’s game in Los Angeles, just like the rest of the nation, and when one was living in a white man’s world, black people and white people didn’t fraternize with each other, particularly on a social level. Especially in 1895 Los Angeles. 126 years ago, there was no question that placing such an advertisement in the newspaper could get them killed or lynched in Angel City. It was a brazen act of courage and very bold move on their part.

Los Angeles Herald – June 14, 1895

As a brakeman for the Southern Pacific Railroad Co. in the late 1800’s, “Will” Carroll was familiar with all types of danger. He lived his life fearlessly, atop boxcars, bringing them to a screeching halt if need be. He had connections, traveling from town to town. He had money burning a hole in his pocket that he had saved from his brakeman’s job, which would help him fund future endeavors. William H. Carroll also had dreams, and he would make those dreams come to fruition. James M. Alexander worked for J.W. Robinson Co. (Boston Dry Goods Store) as a ‘porter”, which this store in its modern incarnation would be known as Robinson’s Department Store, located at 239 South Broadway, in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles City Directory – 1899
Boston Dry Goods Store – Los Angeles – 1895

This store was a brand new facility in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles in 1895, and J.W. Robinson himself had moved his dry goods business to Los Angeles. Not just in the interest of selling dry goods, but for the twofold reason of developing orange groves on his property in Riverside, California. The West had gained the national monopoly on all oranges headed to the East Coast at that time, and the profit margins on Valencia oranges that sold to the East was huge. All of these occupations in early Los Angeles were desperately needed, and Los Angeles was soon to become a Boom Town. “Angel City” was the place to be, if your intent was to grow the unusual and the interesting.

After the Trilbys defeated the Seventh Street Grays, Carroll quickly issued another challenge, and this time it is finally taken up by the Brunswicks of the Angel City league.

Los Angeles Herald – June 21, 1895

The chronicles of the “Trilbys of Los Angeles” is just a part of the story of Carroll and Alexander, and their early years in baseball. Before now, William H. Carroll and James M. Alexander of the Alexander Giants, and the Carroll Giants, A.C. Garden Athletics, Carroll Park and Alexander Giant Park have been sort of a mystery. Not unsolved; just untold for the most part. Their particular story travels backwards in time to their humble beginnings, sometimes bridging gaps and making connections for the purpose of telling the prequel narrative of how teams like the Alexander Giants came into being. Traveling through the netherworld of numerous sports articles buried in the Pre-Modern Baseball Era, which is the period between 1876 and 1900, can sometimes net positive end results. The story of the Trilbys of Los Angeles, and Carroll and Alexander is one of those tales.

Los Angeles Herald – June 26, 1895

From these three articles, one can glean the importance of the history of African American baseball in the West, that are as follows: 1) William H. Carroll and James M. Alexander located in the same place, at the same time, doing the same thing. Starting an African American baseball club in the early beginnings of Los Angeles, during the Pre-Modern Baseball era. 2) They also show baseball historians these two men inserted themselves in league play within an already existing all-white league, based totally on their financial means and baseball acuity. 3) It completes a three decade time line of William H. Carroll and James M. Alexander, and shows us as well, that not only did Carroll and Alexander front the Trilby team financially, but that they also played the sport of baseball as well.

1895 was the year Los Angeles had its real coming out party, by way of “La Fiesta de Los Angeles“, which took place between April 15 and April 20 of that year. It was a strange event orchestrated by the Merchants of the Greater Los Angeles region, and one that was used to set the tone for the Greater Los Angeles area well into the final decade of the 19th century. On the surface, it was a seemingly harmless function given by merchants and political figures, but deeper down it was a culturally appropriative milieu of bad taste entertainment, which was used as a selling point for Eastern migration to Los Angeles. The festival which was similar in its design to a Mardi Gras pageant was largely filled with nativist propaganda, in search of those seeking out the final vestiges of Manifest Destiny on the Western frontier. It was an invitation from those in power to beg, borrow, and steal land, commandeer resources, and displace the indigenous peoples and remaining Californios, made up of mostly those who had already retreated from the majority of upper California after the Bear Revolt and Gold Rush of ’49, — and had already moved much further South than Santa Barbara County, to eek out what was left of a meager existence in the desert of Southern California. It was part of the Great Land Rush of 1895. The golden value in Los Angeles’ vast territory was found in available acreage, and much of it could be secured for a nominal price. When the first advertisement in the La Fiesta de Los Angeles program is for all the existing train routes and their access points showing everyone how to get there, and the second one is about real estate, then the Manifest Destiny of Los Angeles writing was on the wall.

“Just as the scope of La Fiesta outgrew the original design, so did the plans for the carnival of the present season assume greater magnitude. As a subject for the allegorical features of the street pageants it was decided to make the central spectacle descriptive of a period of wonderful interest, which has never heretofore been utilized in celebrations of this kind, the achievements of the Spanish pioneers in the great Pacific west of North and South America, and the striking customs and life of the strange races which they conquered, to be contrasted with the march of American civilization……” – La Fiesta de Los Angeles program, “The Carnival of 1895”.

Racism ran deep in early Los Angeles. Culture wars were very prominent, based on the remaining available real estate that had yet to be conquered and consumed by an ever increasing migrating population coming from the Eastern U.S. to the frontier Southwest by rail.

Page from the “La Fiesta de Los Angeles” program
La Fiesta de Los Angeles – “Queen of Angels Float” 1895
La Fiesta de Los Angeles -1895

The staged “July 4th baseball” event took place. Two games were played on the Fourth of July at Athletic Park, to a crowd of 4,000 paying customers, who had certain expectations. Except the Trilbys did not play the Brunswicks. The Brunswicks played and defeated the Pomona ball club at a score of 9 to 6, and the Trilbys played and defeated the Boyle Heights Stars 19 to 15. The advertised game between the Trilbys and the Brunswicks was a loss leader pitched at Angel City league fans, and a very effective way to introduce the “Trilbys of Los Angeles” to the predominately white fans following Los Angeles baseball, who were unaccustomed to seeing an African American baseball teams in the Southern California area. The game between the Boyle Heights Stars and the Trilbys was more about brand building than anything else. To build anticipation of a crowd in search of new and exciting entertainment. In approaching the introduction of the Trilbys in this manner, the stakes were immediately raised to $50 per side for the Trilbys vs. Brunswicks, instead of the formerly agreed upon $50 winner-take-all pot, and the game between the Trilby and the Brunswicks was then rescheduled for July 15th, 1895.

Overall, the 1895 season for the Trilbys, which was built purely on a challenges of team-against-team for winner-take-all, had thrust them quickly into the lime light of the Los Angeles Herald sporting section between 1895 and 1896. Los Angeles was still pretty much a horse and buggy town in 1895, unless one just chose to ride a horse without using a buggy. The first automobile appeared in Los Angeles in 1897, and ever since then Los Angeles has never looked back to its Golden Age of Buggies. Transportation to and from games limited the game play between the most teams, and mobility of the Trilby team was heavily impacted by this fact for the first couple of years, unless of course they played a team where a train station was located nearby. Athletic Park was their home field, for the most part, and they had to accept whatever games that came their way. As the story goes with the crash of the “California League” (The Los Angeles Angeles, the Oakland Colonels, the San Francisco Friscos, and the Sacramento River Pirates) in 1893, — Athletic Park was now used by the Angel City league for local ball games. Once home to the Los Angeles Angels, the very first professional baseball team in Los Angeles, which played between 1889 and 1893, Athletic Park now fielded local teams. Distance between California League locations was a dominate factor which help kill the early California League.

The California League Grounds – UC Berkeley::Bancroft Library 1890

Yet in February of 1895, the town of Los Angeles came together and decided to play baseball again, after a consecutive two year lull. They had a park, so why not? The creation of the Angel City League would be a boon to local businesses, and give people something that involved the entire community. In the beginning (1894), there were only four teams that fit the bill for scheduled play at Athletic Park. The Francis Wilsons, El Telegraphos, the Keatings, and the Boyle Heights Stars.

By 1895, the El Telegraphos and Keatings teams would be replaced by the Brunswicks and the Admirals. The Keating were named after the Keating bicycle, carried at the Hawley, King & Co., purveyors of fine carriages. Mr. A.B. Boswell was manager of the Keatings, and had been recruiting the best amateur baseball players in Los Angeles since 1892 when he managed the Long Beach baseball club. Which bring up another interesting point about early Los Angeles. The bicycle was a common mode of transportation within city limits, and there were a multitude of bicycle shops on Spring Street in early downtown Los Angeles.

Fowler Bicycle Co. was located at 431 So. Spring Street, in Los Angeles. It was such a popular bicycle shop, it boasted five employees. Will Knippenberg’s bicycle works, located at 437 So. Spring Street, sold the Crimson Rim “Syracuse” bicycle in men and women’s models, and tandems bicycles as well. The average cost was between $105 to $155 for a bicycle, and this mode of transportation for growing city was no longer consider a “fad” to the uninitiated. W.K Cowan sold “Rambler” bicycles at his 427 So. Spring Street location, and had 18 models to stock to choose from. The bicycle was a integral part of the growth of early Los Angeles. It was also beyond the meager means of of the average person.

Los Angeles Herald – January 16, 1894

The Keating Bicycle and the Keating baseball club were good ‘product placement’, just like the ‘Trilbys of Los Angeles’ were good product placement.

Carroll and Alexander both possessed entrepreneurial spirits from the time that they met. Both were fairly self-educated men. They both could read and write even though they had no formal schooling, and both men had a excellent sense for business. They knew how to parlay a few dollars into a larger earned equity. They were an exception to the rule for men of that period, who were black or white, and especially for fast growing place like Los Angeles.

Carroll was born in Virginia in 1865 and Alexander was born in Texas in 1872. What they both had in common was that both of these men never ever wanted to return to their place of origin. The West was seen as the land of ‘milk and honey’. The West was the the land of vast opportunities. The West was pliable, — where a man could mold his future. And, in “Boom Town” Los Angeles, Carroll and Alexander were only a train ride away from Oakland if things got too dicey. Also, Los Angeles was a town just dying for baseball. And the Trilbys were the only ‘black baseball team’ for hundreds of miles around, which gave Carroll and Alexander just the advertising edge that they needed to make a name for themselves and their Trilbys of Los Angeles.

In 1894, the Angel City league had scheduled 24 games between the four existing teams. Two games, each Sunday, would take place at Athletic Park. By the time 1895 rolled around, the Angel City league had reduced the schedule to 20 games between the four existing teams, giving Carroll and Alexander the perfect timing to set up challenge games. With two games with alternating teams, taking place at Athletic Park each weekend, it was their chance to be seen on a regular basis. The introduction of the Trilbys into adolescent Los Angeles society was just the equation of additional weekly baseball needed for the local betting pools and colorful entertainment of the ever needy Los Angeles.

Los Angeles was a gambler’s paradise. With alternating teams playing each Sunday, and games taking place at Athletic Park, the city of Los Angeles was proving that it could hold its own in the world according to the national pastime. Introducing the Trilbys into the burgeoning city of Los Angeles, and restructuring the racial exposure equation into weekly baseball games, added zest and vibrancy to the local betting pools and colorful entertainment of the ever needy Los Angeles population. Between June 17, 1895 and Oct 28, 1895, the Trilbys played twelve scheduled games and winning a total of six of them. They boasted one tie to that record. Most of their games, with one exception, were played against teams that existed within the Angel City League. It was the preemptive beginning to the desegregation of the Angel City league by way of challenge, which also proved to be a tremendous boon to local businesses. Los Angeles would become the Trilbys’ “Eldoradoville“.

And although they were “not officially” in the Angel City league, the Trilbys would make a showing in the year of 1896 as well. The Trilby of 1895 racked up a lot of wins, and as many losses, but their persistence and method of advertising brought them the notoriety that they’d been seeking since their initial challenge to one-and-all in the Southern California area. Athletic Park, located in on Alameda Street, bordered by the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks just South of the Southern Pacific Arcade Depot, between Palmetto and Seventh, was a place where the Trilbys played a majority of their games, and was quite well known throughout the region. Athletic Park was built on land that was once owned by William Wolfskill, pioneer, viticulturist, and agronomist, who developed the Valencia orange. The Wolfskill Ave. Winery was still in operation during this time, and was located on Ceres Street, not far from the Arcade Depot.

“Wolfskill Avenue Winery” – 507 Ceres Avenue – “W.H. Carroll – 102 North Los Angeles St.” – Los Angeles City Directory – 1899

More importantly, the Trilbys themselves became a regional draw and the local fans enjoyed watching this African American team win or lose. A lot of hype was built around them, and their showmanship and fine ball playing skills were their team’s branding trademark. This is what Carroll and Alexander were hoping to establish in the city of Los Angeles. The Trilbys were the wildcard team, unpredictable, and a thorn in the side of the Angel City league teams; which kept the bookmakers, and local as well as distant odds makers, wondering which team within the all-white Angel City league were truly league champions.

Athletic Park in Los Angeles, 1897 – Maxwell’s Los Angeles city directory and gazetteer of Southern California
Southern Pacific Arcade Depot, Alameda Street – 1898

The Trilbys had rightly earned their nickname as the “Colored Terrors”.

After the Trilbys opening season loss to the Mount Lowe Boys at Athletic Park, by a score of 27 to 24, they once again found themselves being challenged by the Francis Wilsons for $25 a side, — for a $50 total “winner-take-all” contest, including the entire gate. The Wilsons, of course, were looking to redeem themselves to the local fans, after losing this same exact bet to the Trilbys in September of 1895. It was a sucker bet. On June 14, 1896, the Trilbys once again, took the win, took the money, and took the gate as well — by a score of 11 to 9. This continuous established pattern of losing to teams outside of the league, in order for the Trilbys to win games against teams within the league, was becoming clear to those with discerning eyes. Carroll and Alexander knew how to turn a buck, elevating the “double-or-nothing” stakes when bets were on the line, and promote the Trilbys at the same time.

It was on July 12, 1896, that the Triblys were mentioned in the Los Angeles Herald as one of the teams belonging in the Angel City league. This was a first in the Angel City league history, and it was hard earned. The Trilbys continually brought the Los Angeles baseball crowds to Athletic Park.

Los Angeles Herald – July 12, 1896

The “battle for supremacy” was played both on the field and off the field. The Trilbys always played good to great games, but always got second billing in the Los Angeles Herald, even when they won games. When they lost, they lost big. The team and its players were rarely mentioned in the sporting news. There was only box scores and no blow by blow of their baseball skill sets in their first two years on the field. The losers of the Angel City league teams got more press than the Trilbys did, until July 20, 1896, when the Trilbys played the Francis Wilsons in a fourteen inning tie breaker, where the Trilbys came home the victors, by a score of 7 to 6. Five extra innings of hard play after nine long innings, was referred to as the “prettiest game” ever played at Athletic Park. This would be the first time Los Angeles Herald would introduce the citizens of Los Angeles and Southern California to the Trilbys as something special, other than the normal mention as the “colored team”.

Los Angeles Herald – July 20, 1896

The Trilbys became the team to beat in 1896, and they played well into the winter, and advertisements were beginning to be used to promote their games. They played more than twenty-five games in 1896, and most of them were against teams within Angel City league. They even considered themselves the ‘league champions’, based on the amount games they played and the amount of games they won against their rivals.

Los Angeles Herald – November 29, 1896
Los Angeles Herald – December 6, 1896

From a once meager 24 scheduled games in 1894, with the addition of the Trilbys to the Angel City league in 1895, to the games played by the Trilbys in the Angel City league in 1896, — the Angel City league would now see an extended schedule of 54 games ‘games to be played’ heading into the 1897 season, with the Francis Wilsons playing the first game against Los Angeles ball club, and the Trilbys playing a second game against the the Francis Wilsons as the season opener. As the 1896 season ended, and the 1897 season began, the harsh reality of Southern California racism began to creep slowly into the concept of having an African American team defeat all-white teams without pause, within an all-white league.

The Trilbys had succeeded where they were expected to fail. The Los Angeles Herald, nor the Angel City league would never outwardly acknowledge their overall statistic within the Angel City league play, or recognize the Trilbys of Los Angeles as league champions. Whatever social aspects of racism that had been embedded in Southern California since before the Civil War had remained unimpeded by the South’s loss. Southern California had remained a Confederate stronghold, even though California was always a “Union state”. It operated socially and similarly under the same principles as the Gadsden Purchase of Arizona and New Mexico, absent of a land purchase and a line drawn in the sand.

The fight for baseball supremacy in Southern California was far from over.

Los Angeles Herald – May 9, 1897

Being referred to as “the colored champions of the state” by the Los Angeles Herald, and not the “Angel City League Champions” was basically a slap in the face to Will Carroll, James M. Alexander, and the entire Trilby organization. The bar was being set higher for being league “champions”, and the finish line was being moved further away. The new season began slowly for the Trilbys. Between May and June, the Trilbys racked up a series of losses, and didn’t come back to life till July of 1897. Most of their early games were played against teams that lay outside of the Angel City league. San Bernardino, Redondo, Compton to name just a few. The Angel City League was reaching outside of its normal area of operation, and inviting more all-white teams located in Orange County and San Bernardino County.

From the standpoint of Derrick Bell Jr.’s assessment, one of the main key components of Critical Race Theory is when a “dominant society racializes different minority groups at different times, in response to shifting needs such as the labor market.” This is what happened with the Trilbys while playing within the Angel City league and how the Los Angeles Herald portrayed them in ‘minstrel like’ illustrations along with the box scores of their losses. This had never been done until the 1897 season rolled around. But money and prestige were on the line now, and the Trilbys were being cut out of both.

By 1897, Los Angeles was trying to clean up its act, which included demolishing all of the brothels and cribs that ran the length of Alameda Street and operated openly for decades. They were reminiscent of “Maiden Lane” in San Francisco in the 1860 to 1880’s. They were to be shut down at all cost. Those horrid dens of iniquity that resided between the warehouses, North of Aliso Street and Calle de los Negros. George Lecour, Joseph Wiatt, Blanche Laborde, Louis Exgris, Emile Rottenbeck, and Oscar Wagner who all rented cribs from the notorious Shafer Bros., were all put on notice, based on land leases that expired within Los Angeles city limits in 1897.

Bartello Ballerino, a wealthy property owner in early Los Angeles was by far the largest operator of brothels and cribs in this location, and in 1897, was said to have been worth the royal sum of $250,000. His wealth accumulation came to light when his wife filed for divorce, and his actual assets were in question. “Sporting Guide: Los Angeles, 1897“, written by Liz Goldwyn, granddaughter of producer Samuel Goldwyn, weaves an intricate tale of the seedier side of 1897 Los Angeles. Also, there were five hundred plus oil wells operating within Los Angeles, which made California the third-largest oil-producing state in America; so Los Angeles a a city was overdue for an extreme make over. What followed along with the clean up of Los Angeles though, was the elimination of the Trilbys from Athletic Park and the Angel City league, and the African American fans that followed them there in support of their games.

Los Angeles “Sporting Area” Baist’s Real Estate Surveys – 1910
2021 – “Calle de Los Negros” area, showing Los Angeles Plaza Park

On July 4th, 1897, the Los Angeles Herald reported that the Trilbys had picked up two “new” players from the Pomona team. One can assume that these two new players were of African American descent, based on the existing racial dynamics taking place in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. Pomona (in “Rancho San Jose”) was located near the San Bernardino County line, and at a great distance from the city of Los Angeles. Even though there was limited integration within the Angel City league, there was no real integration within individual teams when it came to scheduled games. On October 25, 1897, a “Championship Series” was announced in the Los Angeles Herald for all the teams that were currently playing in the Angel City league. There were some late comers, and unknowns who had embedded themselves in the Angel City league, which created a rivalry between those who had been playing since the season began.

With the 1897 season drawing down to an end, and with nearly no games scheduled for the Trilbys between June and September because of the introduction of these league newcomers, the ever reliable Trilby’s were now being scheduled to play nine games between October 31, 1897 and January 2, 1898 within the Angel City league. They had been left out of most of the regular season scheduling purposefully, and picked up games outside of the Angel City league whenever and wherever they could, just to keep up their skill sets. By October 18, 1896, the Trilbys had already completed 22 games within the Angel City league. By October 25, 1897, the Trilbys had played less than 9 Angel City league scheduled games. A this point in the 1897 season, even if they were to win all remaining 9 scheduled games left to play, the Trilbys would be out of the running for a championship play-off series. They had only accumulated 3 wins within league play by Oct. 25, 1897, there was no way possible that they could redeem their current League Champion status.

Los Angeles Herald – October 25, 1897

This newly conceived schedule and Championship series didn’t really matter though. In its entirety, this scheduled series for the ‘Championship of the League’ fell apart shortly after the games played on December 20, 1897 had concluded, and the city’s patrons were heading into the Christmas holidays. Any remaining league games that were scheduled to be played at Athletic Park, were replaced mostly by teams from out of town who were not in the Angel City league. The Southern California Championship series of 1897 for a purse of $200 was a total bust. it really never got off the ground.

The 1897 Angel City league season ended poorly for the Trilbys, by racking up more losses than wins and playing far less games than they had in their previous seasons. It was almost as if the Trilbys were being scheduled to not play games within the Angel City league, and being formerly a gate staple and a large draw within the Angel City league, the city of Angel City league didn’t really allow them to set their own schedule of games, or commit to the outside of the league table bets. Out of announced 54 scheduled games for the Angel City league in 1897, the Trilbys were only scheduled to play in a total 16 total, and that was by pure fluke.

The Angel City league scheduling had become awkward, uneven, an ill managed. Most of the teams that played that year were unstable and unreliable. Side bets were off the table. And the expansion of the games played with teams from Orange County and San Bernardino County only caused confusion and indecision when it came to scheduling game dates. Any money earned from the games played was not a matter of public display or public discussion.

With this international conflict between the United States and Spain moving closer to full military engagement, and the annexation of Cuba on the horizon, the multi-million dollars in trade losses with Cuba were on everyone’s mind, including Los Angelenos; and the main reason the U.S. would finally decide that an eventual military intervention would become necessary to secure the well being of the homeland. Baseball leading up to the 1898 season took a back burner to this predetermined war with Spain. Heavy economic losses to the United States were mounting, and were on the minds of all Americans. The conflict with Spain would also have a tremendous effect on the status of the “Sandwich Islands”, and would spread to all of the Spanish East Indies colonies, including the “Pearl of the Orient“. Not only as replacement as trading partner, but also as a forward base of operation for the impending war with Spain in the Pacific as well.

San Francisco Call – May 22, 1897

When the U.S.S. Maine was sunk on February 15, 1898, the focus of the United States shifted from baseball to war. In fact, there was almost no baseball to speak of. What began early in the season died quickly, and painlessly, because there were no teams playing the game of baseball in Los Angeles, except for the Trilbys, the Spauldings, and the Los Angeles Stars for the most part. And even those games were infrequent occurrences at Fiesta Park or Athletic Park. At the end of the 1897 season in mid December, it has been rumored among the financiers of the Angel City league that there would be sponsorship of a “Southern California” league, with leadership stationed in San Bernardino, instead of Los Angeles, and this new league would use teams who would come from as far away as San Diego. There was never any mention of such a league developing in the year 1898. In Los Angeles, there was very little baseball talk at all.

Los Angeles Herald – December 16, 1897
Los Angeles Herald – December 19, 1898.

After a two year lull in playing, or trying to make sense of why the Trilbys could not get any steady action on the field, Will Carroll decide that is was time to take it back to the very beginning. The Trilbys had suffered an embarrassing defeat against the San Diego team in April of 1899. The main reason that was given is that the majority of the Trilbys’ regular players could not afford to travel to San Diego, so Carroll put together a makeshift squad of players who could go travel to Bayview Park. They were also playing in unfamiliar, hostile territory. What Carroll had learned from that defeat was to bring the game, his game, — back home. And the only way to do that was through advertising his desire to engage in the sport with all comers, invite one-and-all to play against the true Champions of Southern California. Just like he had in the past, Carroll set the tone.

The Call Out; the “challenge” to his opponents was a trademark of Carroll’s magic on and off the field.

Carroll enlarged his target market by staking the claim that his Trilbys had been the “Champions of Southern California”, and not just in Los Angeles. Once again, his ruse would be just enough to gain him the public’s attention, and peak the ire of those who had been planning something much different for the Trilbys when it came to Southern California baseball. Losing was part of playing, and Carroll knew that. What was worse than losing though was not playing at all, or not being allowed to play at all. Carroll went on the attack and reorganized the Trilbys in March of 1899, with James M. Alexander still being a part of the team.

Weekly Sun – March 27, 1899

After the 1899 season opener, where the Trilbys lost the game by 28 to 4, and the newly formed “Southern California League” made the executive decision that the Trilbys were not “up to the mark” of playing that the league required. The Trilbys had lost games before, and had went on to defeat the teams that had previously defeated them. A single game where the Trilbys lost, it was announced that the Trilbys would not be a part of this new Southern California league, which was operating outside of Los Angeles county proper. It was something that Carroll had suspected all along.

The fact that the Trilbys often sandbagged games, so they could raise the betting stakes didn’t help their introduction to this newly formed league, for this was not solely a Los Angeles league now. This was San Diego headed league, where bush ball was taken extremely seriously, even if they thought more highly of their organization than the former Los Angeles Angel City league had. The main funding for this new league came directly out of San Bernardino, and it was financed by W.E. Collins and George Cobb. J.M. Dodge, President of the league from San Diego team, along with George Cobb of Riverside, who is Secretary of the newly founded league.

Weekly Sun – May 26, 1899

In a stroke of genius, and tenacity, even though Carroll’s Trilbys weren’t getting as many games as they should have, and by being ostensibly shut out of the Southern California league, Carroll began his own self promotion by stating he was in contact with Bud Fowlers “Colored All-American Black Tourist“, and he and Fowler were in negotiations with him to catch for the team. It was the kind of publicity that could not be ignored by those who were empowered in the Southern California league.

L.A. Herald 4 September 1899

The Trilbys wasted no time in seeking out games. The locales of these pick up games made no difference to the Trilbys after the reorganization had taken place. Carroll set up matches with old opponents that were not in the league, like the baseball club from Redondo. And they waited patiently till the two other teams from the former Angel City league, the “Merchants” and the Los Angeles Stars played against each other, to see who was in better form within this new Southern California league. And then they outwardly laid down a challenge to the winner of a series between the two. It was a pure bravado move on Carroll’s part. Not only did the Trilbys challenge the “Merchants” to a winner take all contest, they played the game at San Diego’s Bayview Park, for one-and-all to witness on the Southern California league’s turf. Will Carroll managed to to all this while securing games with other teams in Northern California.

San Diego Union and Daily Bee – July 30, 1899

The years between 1898 and 1900 were lean times for the Trilbys of Los Angeles, but Carroll was persistent if nothing else. The ever changing face of Los Angeles, was moving towards a more civilized environment and much further away from its harden “Old West” image. Los Angeles was in the beginning stages of creating an image that was “family friendly”. It began with the shutting down of brothels, cribs, and opium dens in 1898, and that purge continued well into 1900’s, with the closure of saloons and other drinking establishments, based on new sanitary laws and restrictions imposed by the City of Los Angeles. In the year 1900, the overall population Los Angeles had reached 102,479, and was consider the 36th largest city in America.

And even though Los Angeles had the 2nd largest African American population in California, those 2,131 African Americans still represented only 2% of the total population of Los Angeles. Will Carroll must have had foresight into the development of of early Los Angeles, for he’d taken his earning and invested in a saloon and hotel located at 102 North Los Angeles Street near Calle de Los Negros in 1898, called “Carroll & Brown“. By 1899, Carroll bought out his partner,– the ever elusive “Brown” –, and renamed the drinking establishment “Carroll’s Place“.

Carroll’s establishment was located two blocks South of Calle de Los Negros, and three blocks South of El Pueblo de Los Angeles and Los Angeles Plaza, where Los Angeles began.

1898 Los Angeles City Directory
1899 Los Angeles City Directory
Open air market at the L.A. Plaza, 1900 – photo courtesy of “Water & Power Associates”
102 North Los Angeles Street – 2021

Playing outside of the Southern California league and consistently winning proved to be beneficial for the Trilbys and Carroll. Carroll and Alexander, as businessmen and sportsmen, had made it this far by playing the long game. If the powers that be would not allow the Trilbys to play in the Southern California league, based on continued overt racism, then the Trilbys would defeat as many teams as possible outside of the league, thereby encircling the Southern California league with a multitude of games played and games won for side bets, and their entertainment value. This kept the people of Southern California in heated discussions about who played the best baseball in the Southland.

Los Angeles Herald – April 20, 1900.

Between 1900 and 1905, the Trilbys under William Carroll reorganized the the team one last time in 1904. The year 1902 was the most revealing eye opener to Carroll though. What he knew to be true had finally come to a head. Being the outspoken man that he was, he wrote a letter to the sporting editor of the Los Angeles Herald about his ill treatment in Santa Ana. Carroll had finally had enough of the blatant, overt racism and game fixing that was being played out by the Southern California league or other teams under the guidance of those that lived outside of Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles Herald – April 23, 1902
Los Angeles Herald – March 21 1904

Some of the Trilbys last years were spent barnstorming in Northern California after they could no longer access games in Southern California against teams of stature. Years later, during the 1920’s in the city of Los Angeles, William H. Carroll and James M. Alexander decided to join forces once again to create the Alexander Giants of Los Angeles. By the time Carrol and Alexander founded the Alexander Giant, Carroll was the owner of a grocery store. James M. Alexander continued to work for J.W. Robinson for close to a decade, eventually moving into the position as an elevator operator. After Alexander left the ‘dry goods’ business, he worked for the U.S. Dept. of the Interior as a “stamp deputy”. Prior to being a tax stamp man, Alexander was a “Revenuer”. In the 1940’s he became a real estate broker. It would seem that the silent partner in the early Trilbys was also a businessman, even if Carroll was the outspoken front man, making them a perfect pair, both on and off the field of play.

Many great players came from the Alexander Giants. William H. Carroll and James Alexander had been connected to Los Angeles baseball twenty-five years before they ever thought about establishing the Alexander Giants. They were the Trilby men of Los Angeles first.

William H. Carrol and James M. Alexander – photo from “Agate Type” courtesy of Gary Ashwill,The Alexander Giants of Los Angeles
California Eagle – October 7, 1922

1) O’Neal Pullen
2) Jimmy Claxton
3) Harry Blackmon
4) Hilary “Bullet” Meaddows
5) Carlisle Perry
6) Goldie Davis
7) William Ross
8) George Henry “Tank” Carr

Which leads us to understand that no African American baseball team, like the Alexander Giants can ever be created out of thin air. That some African American team owners have a deep rooted history in the game of baseball — and may have at one time played the game as well.

And that every baseball team has a bridge to their origin story.

49 Days: The West Coast ‘Baseball’ Association

When the Oakland High Marine Club met on October 18, 1945, a three day meeting took place between interested parties, who would set in motion the creation of the “West Coast Baseball Association“. Time was of the essence. This idea had been tossed around for some time, and it was time to put it in writing, striking the beginnings of a formal agreement between African American businessmen of the West Oakland and South Berkeley Communities about creating a Negro League they could call their own.

Earlier in the year, on August 28, 1945, Branch Rickey had signed Jackie Robinson to a contract to play in the minor leagues with the Montreal Royals. This formative move created tension on the other side of the color fence of what was to come of the Negro Leagues. It sent shock waves through the West Oakland’s and South Berkeley’s African American communities, and many other African American communities across the nation, where the face of the National Pastime was about to change permanently.

West Oakland after all, was the Harlem of the West, and 7th Street played an integral part in the nation’s African American vibrant culture and race climate, that help foster African American baseball and businesses coast to coast. They also supported the Negro Leagues both far and wide in every aspect of the game. Oakland, being the last stop for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters across the nation, was the mecca of the West for information about African American communities and culture changes that took place, from all over the United States.

For better or for worse, there would be no stopping the future desegregation of Major League Baseball. And the collective Bay Area needed to prepare for the overarching economic outcome that this proposed ‘integration’ move, and how it would change the economic and political landscape. How would the possibility of the desegregation of professional baseball impact the African American community at at large? This was the question on the minds of local African American business owners, and it certainly needed to be addressed.

The first mention of a ‘West Coast’ Negro League was brought up at a meeting of the Oakland High Marine Club on July 12, 1945, when it was noted by the Secretary of that organization, that a small group had a round tabled a discussion about a proposal made by Ed C. Harris, that had to do with “Baseball”. The first pitch for this idea was tossed out by Harris, who had played semi-pro ball for the California Eagles. The idea of mounting a ‘West Coast’ Negro League began weeks before Robinson signed an agreement with Rickey, and sooner than later, the creation of the West Coast Baseball Association would become more than simple table talk.

By August 8, 1945, twenty days before Jackie Robinson would sign a contract to play with Montreal, the Oakland High Marine Club would put together a fact finding committee, with Harris in charge, to study the feasibility of starting a brand new West Coast Negro League, in anticipation that the current Negro Leagues would see a mass exodus of players lost to desegregation of the Major Leagues. The other consideration was finding untapped talent from returning African America soldiers, who would soon be coming home from the Pacific and European theaters.

In hopes that this would be a new beginning for those who wanted to maintain financially independence of Major League Baseball, which had rejected African Americans since its inception based on an unwritten rule among players, coaches, the front office and owners, — the Oakland High Marine Club set forth on the road to insure an alternative pathway for the African America professional baseball players, coaches, managers, and team owners was put in play.

How Abe Saperstein and Jesse Owens became a part of the West Coast ‘Baseball’ Association is a complete mystery, because there is no indication of their involvement at all in the Summer of 1945, when the first seeds of this new league were planted. There is only an indication that Saperstein’s involvement happened sometime late in January 1946. The concept of Saperstein becoming the President of the West Coast Baseball Association, along with his Vice President and associate, Jesse Owens, is completely separate story in and of itself, — which very little research has yet to be performed on that particular subject matter. The fact remains though, both Saperstein and Owens were not a part of the original group of men that decided that the West Coast needed or deserved its own professional Negro League representation.

What is notable about Saperstein’s involvement with the West Coast ‘Baseball’ Association, is he was reluctant to take the job as League President. Owens was elected as First Vice President of the League. And a gentleman named Bruce Rowell, who was the manager of the Ubangi Club in Seattle was elected Second Vice President of the league. Former President Pro Tem, D.A. Portlock, was elected as Treasurer of the league. This removed the power base of origination from the West Coast Association out of the hands of the Bay Area founders where the league was formed, into the hands of Pacific Northwest interlopers. What should have been investment became and act of usurpation. There are those that say that Rowell didn’t even actually own the Seattle Steelheads, and that he was nothing more than a proxy for the behind the scenes ownership of the Steelheads for Saperstein. Leaving the newly established West Coast Association with a three to one in favor of the Pacific Northwest teams, when it came to a governing votes by the Board of Directors for the West Coast Association.

The Chicago Defender – January 26, 1946

Andrew Spurgeon “Doc” Young , sports editor of the Los Angeles based African American paper called the “Los Angeles Sentinel“, wrote a scathing editorial about the fact that Abe Saperstein was allowed to become the President of the West Coast Association. The header read, “Election Of Saperstein To West Coast Baseball Violates Idea Of Negro Promotion”.

Los Angeles Sentinel – January 31, 1946

So how far back does this legacy of baseball within the African American communities of West Oakland and South Berkeley reach? The answer can be found with that formal meeting to establish a league and charter, which took place on October 18, 1945, by glancing at the address “1219 8th Street”, West Oakland. California. This was the home of the Athens Elks Lodge 70. The organization that was also responsible for the birth of the Berkeley Colored League during the Great Depression, and the Berkeley International League — which was the Bay Area’s attempt of integrating baseball with all racial groups that lived in the East Bay. The Athens Elks Lodge was the place where, community dace were held, and many great early jazz performers got their start. Wade Whaley and his Black and Tan Jazz Hounds were made famous, playing weekly for dances in the 1920’s at the Athens Elks Lodge 70.

The Athens Elks club was known on both sides of the Bay, and was the home of the Black Local 648 musician union. This meant that any African American musician who showed up to town, to play in the Bay Area checked in with the Elks Club; and as it was also a dance hall upstairs, and a bar and nightclub downstairs. It was a place where large gatherings of the African American community took place, a lot of famous musicians passed through its door and played in their hall. Jam sessions between out of town stars and local bands were a constant happening. From Jimmie Lunceford to Billie Holiday, the Elks Club was the place to meet and greet your long lost cousin or your next husband or wife.

The San Francisco Spokesman – November 30, 1934

The Spokesman – January 27, 1933
The Berkeley Gazette – September 1945

In 1945, the usual suspects could be found planning the arrival of a league with its core foundation members linked in the Bay Area and its people, with their strong history of African American baseball on the West Coast. In a period of time just a little over three months, one-hundred days, processed through a series of meetings of the Oakland High Marine Club, a charter was established for the “West Coast Association” was founded in October of 1945. The word “Baseball” was an addition later added by Abe Saperstein, that also became prominent in his correspondence sent to different team managers. It seems that Abe Saperstein was an absentee baseball league President, who never read the league’s charter, but is all too often credited with the league’s original formation, when that story couldn’t be further from the truth.

Oakland High Marine Society Club 1946
West Coast Association By-Laws
Original Founders of the West Coast Association – Oct. 18, 1945

Carlisle Tarleton Perry was one of the first players to play the fields of the Bay as one of the Oakland Giants, playing with team members Chet Bost, Norman O. “Tick” Houston, Hilary Bullet Meaddows, and Jimmy Claxton. He also played for the Pierce Giants of Oakland, and the Shasta Limiteds.

Carlisle Tarleton Perry- 1912 Oakland Giants
Carlisle Tarleton Perry – Pierce Giants of Oakland
Carlisle Tarleton Perry – 1919 Shasta Limiteds
Carlisle Tarleton PerryHaroldYellowhorse” Morris – WCBA 1945

Harold “Yellowhorse” Morris started his baseball career with the Pierce Giants of Oakland. He played ball under the tutelage of team Captain, Chet Bost and Owner Steve Pierce.

HaroldYellowhorse” Morris – Pierce Giants of Oakland

The mystery of Steve Pierce has always perplexed baseball historians. He owned a baseball team and he owned a baseball diamond. His popularity in the Bay Area, Central California, and the Napa and Sonoma regions were well known. His players were challenged by teams in Southern California, for the “Colored Champions of California“, and they held their own. Rumor had it that he had once purchased the Detroit Stars. In the summer of 1945, Pierce had returned to Oakland to reinvent the Pierce Giants of Oakland, with two young baseball stars named Mel Reid and Johnny Allen, using “Yellowhorse” Morris as his manager.

California Eagle – February 13, 1925
Chet Bost – Steve Pierce 1923 Pierce Giants of Oakland
Oakland Tribune – June 18, 1945
Steve Pierce – Ed Harris- West Coast Baseball Association 1945

The West Coast Association was the brainchild of Edward C. Harris. In the 1940’s, Ed Harris, a Kansas native, worked for the Works Progress Administration as a Parks and Recreation Director in Berkeley. Verifying his connection as a Fireman in Oakland is seemingly impossible, but if the story is true, he would have been attached to Station 22, Station 33, or Station 28; the only African American fire stations in a city of Oakland, which at that time — had a total of thirty fire engine companies in the 1940’s. Segregation still existed in Berkeley at that time, and a black fireman in Berkeley in the 1940’s was non existent. The Berkeley Unified School District did not desegregate until 1968, although it was the first school system in America to begin the long process of desegregation — moving towards integration in the late 1960’s, by becoming the first school district in the nation to voluntarily implement a two-way busing program.

Engine 22 – Oakland Fire Department- 1943

We do know that Ed Harris played for the California Eagles, which made him well connected to those who played baseball on previous and existing African American teams in the Bay Area. Within that core group of people that Harris played with on the Eagles, Foy Scott, Lionel “Lefty” Wilson, Andrew “Little Sharkey” Auther, and Mel Reid also played for the Oakland Larks as well. Wilson and Auther’s connection to the Larks reaches back to their time spent as team mates on the Berkeley Pelicans of the Berkeley Colored League.

Ed Harris – California Eagles 1940
California Eagles-1940
Oakland Tribune – September 9, 1950, Good Old Sandlot Days
Basehit — Oakland Tribune Semi-Pro Tournament Program – 1935, Good Old Sandlot Days
Oakland Larks lineup – 1946

The discussions surrounding the concepts as to why this West Coast Association league failed, as opposed to becoming a successful Negro League like its predecessors, is a very large and often overlooked subject; but one definitely worth studying today, and it shares stunning similarities to what we see happening with the economic impact of COVID-19 on Major League Baseball. Looking at how desegregation and other uncontrollable factors can effect the financial bottom line of even most well established businesses, including the established Negro Leagues, causes a trickle down effect on established communities that once prospered unabated. They lose their financial stronghold within the community that they built from the ground up.

These massive social shifts can carry both an undercurrent and tsunami like effect, when it comes to society as a whole, and a sub-social stratification, like sports that once helped fuel local economies, suddenly disappear and leaves these communities dry after the surge of initial excitement about the coming changes they will bring. Most of the arguments surrounding the West Coast Association’s rise and subsequent fall usually revolve around unfounded comments such as, “they weren’t good enough“, or “they were not financially sound, based on a lack of collecting a franchise fees“.

The creation of these types of comments or falsehoods need to remedied within the larger discussion of baseball. Because they fail to address a very complex situation of supply and demand in the world of sports and entertainment, and how sports survive in a free market environment where you either continue to expand your market place, — or watch your market place collapse and get taken over by the bigger fish in the pond. Major League Baseball understood its own needs for expansion, and for this reason, Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a financial contract obligating him to be the first of many African American baseball players to join Major League Baseball. This financial concept goes beyond the ‘desegregation into integration’ concept.

It becomes about ticket sales and revenue at the gate. The six original teams represented by the West Coast Association were Seattle Steelheads, Portland Rosebuds, Oakland Larks, San Francisco Sea Lions, Fresno Tigers, and Los Angeles White Sox. Theses teams were the economic gate keepers of the West Coast Association. Their survival depended on an African American working class market place, who could maintain employment on the West Coast after World War II. The ever shifting racial politics in the West, and the decrease in African American employment within the West Coast Military Industrial Complex at the end of World War II also decreased the chances of a new Negro League’s survival. The exponential growth of African Americans to the West Coast during World War II would have easily supported a new Negro League had there been access to larger venues.

Fully understanding how macroeconomics works in a competitive market place should be part of this discussion, because it was was the main reason the West Coast Association failed to make inroads into creating a new Negro League. Three very large forces, coming in from all sides, were working against the creation of the West Coast Association; Major League Baseball, Negro League Baseball and the Pacific Coast League. In 1946, the Pacific Coast League was on a course of reinvention. Expansion was on the plate for Clarence “Pants” Rowland, because he was tired of the Pacific Coast League playing both stepchild and farm league to Major League Baseball.

The assumption of success by the West Coast Association was based on expansion of the Negro Leagues to the West Coast, that would create a West Coast venue for African American baseball players, along with a farm system for the Negro Leagues, similar to Major League Baseball using the Pacific Coast League as a place to tap new talent. The West Coast Association as a new Negro League was a sound idea and worthy of exploration. After seeing the financial drawing power of current Negro League baseball, Major League Baseball plotted a course to play the long game — for the future. It would use both the Negro Leagues and the Pacific Coast Leagues as farms, thereby capitalizing on the best baseball talent available.

With that in mind, and the signing of Jackie Robinson as a precursor to desegregating Major League baseball, it should have been apparent to one an all, including the existing Negro Leagues, that no matter how good the Negro League players were, — or how financially sound the opposing Negro League teams they played for were, — that even those existing Negro League teams as well could not compete in a free market economy where Major League Baseball dominated the social and financial spotlight, and had the financial ability to siphon off the best African American talent of the Negro Leagues and the Pacific Coast League. Salaries of former Negro League players that chose to go to the Major Leagues could not be matched. By remaining in the Negro Leagues, players would be financially handicapping themselves.

The concept of “Negro players”, playing in large stadiums provided by Pacific Coast League owners, on off days or when Pacific Coast League teams were scheduled to play out of town was totally unacceptable to Clarence “Pants” Rowland, — unless of course it was a ‘once in a blue moon‘ charity event. A new Negro League offered monetary competition to the Pacific Coast League that Rowland would not allow to come to fruition. Accepting the fact that the West differed from the East when it came to allowing African Americans on baseball fields reserved for white-only players was a big part of why scheduling games was problematic for the West Coast Association. Saperstein was pretty naive and non·plussed as a West Coast Association President and league negotiator when it came securing Pacific Coast League parks for the West Coast Association league to play on. Abe functioned from a barnstorming mentality, where games were played all over the United States for amusement. and not for sport. He was more attuned to participating in sales role, but when it came to league management, he lacked hands on operational skills.

Being President of an actual league was beyond his grasp.

And although Saperstein presented a steady resolve in the public’s eye when it came promoting the West Coast Association in the media, the behind the scene action was chaotic and contradictory. Saperstein was not accustomed to the deeply embedded West Coast racism when it came to securing ball parks to play in, leaving the negotiations of securing parks up to team Managers — who were seldom given the time of day by the ‘white-only’ park owners. From the time of his election as President of the West Coast Association, to opening day of the league, Saperstein spent very little time securing the Pacific Coast League stadiums, that he made a pledge to the league that he would secure.

The excuses that were used to prevent West Coast Association games from being played on Pacific Coast League fields were readily accepted by Saperstein, without putting up a fight, and without the tenacity of leadership required to make headway. Abe chose to communicate with his managers Harris, Perry, Morris — and the rest of the West Coast Association — only by letter or Western Union. He treated his responsbilities very nonchalantly, possibly because he had many other money making ventures that took priority over West Coast Association. One could even speculate by the overall amount of correspondence archived and collected on the West Coast Association, that Saperstein never met consistently with the any of the team owners or managers of the West Coast Association, or any Pacific Coast League stadium owners, and conducted most of the league business only by telegram, mail, and sometimes by phone.

The Weekly Review – March 9, 1946

The success of African American baseball, which was deeply rooted in the African American culture in the San Francisco Bay Area, would shortly become a thing of the past; causing the rapid decline of West Oakland’s 7th Street’s revenue, and killing off most of the black owned and operated businesses that relied on African American baseball as an economic engine that fueled the black community’s economic survival. The Jazz spots, the Night Clubs, the BBQ joints, the social clubs and meeting houses, — which fostered additional economic engines that trickled down money to every mom and pop business in the black community, were also affected by the demise of the Negro Leagues; both the established Negro Leagues and the one in its infancy.

The barnstorming concept was decimated by the Negro League to Major League crossover of African American athletes, who could not be blamed for wanting to make better money than they ever dreamed of making in the Negro Leagues. The businesses that catered to the African American crowds, — that brought the Negro Leagues to towns all over America, could no longer sustain themselves, when these black owned business — who once flourished and thrived, found their loyal clientele in other neighborhoods, spending their dollars in distant places, far away from their own communities. The radio itself, and television as well, made it possible to see or hear the game at a distance. And the idea of attending a game in person became secondary, furthering the economic decline of the African American community.

There are those that say, “poor planning” caused the demise of the West Coast Association, never taking into account that no Negro League survived desegregation of Major League baseball in 1947. By 1948, the Negro National League disbanded, and by 1950, the Negro American League was a former shell of itself. No business plan could have saved any Negro Leagues. Even though the West Coast Association made an attempt to secure a future place for the African American professional baseball players, there were too many dominating economic factors that crushed every Negro League player, manager, owner, and league Presidents — thereby crushing the Negro League spectators as well.

It took only 49 days from start to finish, to witness the final creation of the very last Negro League charter to be written in America, to the signing of the contract of Jackie Robinson to the Montreal Royals. After that, it took less than four years for the economic demise of every Negro Leagues left in existence, which left the African American communities they financially supported and who supported them as well, — financially decimated by their extinction.

Begging the question: would things have played out differently,…if the Oakland Larks had taken their original name voted on by the members of the Oakland High Marine Club?

Only the alt-universe where the Oakland Bees played baseball would know.

Hume Le Prince Battiste: Professional Baseball’s Southern Royalty

Perhaps one of the most interesting and accomplished athletes of all time was Hume Le Prince Battiste, — as well as the story behind his name and how it is tied to his maternal family legacy. His abilities as a multitalented sportsman are such that few have explored them in detail. And it is remarkably difficult to try and not have total admiration this ‘Everyman’ of the early 20th century, who excelled at sports and life in general; only to have his athletic accomplishments become forever lost in the annals of history, unable to find that special place of recognition. For the most part, they still remain shelved among the dusty archives that could never do him the justice he truly deserves. Such achievements remain overlooked. There is no personal judgements on Battiste, because there is no reason to opine about his moral character.

Hume was a well liked, simple man, who lived a simple life.

Still, Battiste broke the color line barriers in the world of sports, where only a few others have tread and been held in such high acclaim for achieving these athletic milestones.

For as little as he is spoken of as a sports figure, Hume Le Prince Battiste was an African American, in all manners and respects as it applies to his lineage, from the time of his birth to date of his death. By today’s standards, he would be considered a tri-racial isolate, because at the time of his birth on through to his death, this phrase did not even exist. And yet, we find that Battiste descended from one of the oldest, wealthiest, Rice producing families in American history. His given ‘christian’ name ‘Hume’, had a tremendous family history and regional legacy, embedded deep within South Carolina’s rice culture — that reaches back to some of the earliest Huguenot families that settled the swap lands of the early Carolinas along the Santee and Pee Dee rivers; in a place formerly called San Miguel de Gualdape, when this colony transitioned from Spanish America to British America.

The Goose Creek Men of South Carolina laid down the roots of a new American political system, which included illegal trade with Pirates of the Caribbean. Port Royal, South Carolina was designed very much like Port Royal, Jamaica. Goose Creek was rounded out with the Gola people of West Africa, also called Gullah in today’s modern society.

These early Goose Creek settlers were the American purveyors of the Golden Seed, Oryza glaberrima, from far off Madagascar — along with their rice growing slaves from the Rice Coast. Whose African rice culture legacies and rice growing technology, was transferred to the Americas through the Columbian Exchange, helping the early Southern colonies amass untold fortunes, and those fortunes are still spoken of with great reverence today.

It was a time when the early Carolina land holdings were distributed by Edward Hyde, first earl of Clarendon; George Monck, first duke of Albemarle; William Craven, first earl of Craven; Anthony Ashley Cooper, first earl of Shaftesbury; John Berkeley, first baron Berkeley of Stratton, and his brother Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia; Sir George Carteret; and Sir John Colleton; that moved the Carolinas into an age in American history when rice would become the third largest exported crop from Colonial America to Europe.

Carolina-A description of the island of Jamaica

Lord Propietors of Carolina

Rice as a commodity brought tremendous wealth into the British American colonies, substantial wealth to the British Empire, and perennial wealth to the United States after the Revolutionary War — for well over 200 years. Valued at £13 to £16 (£ = pound sterling) per hundredweight (s-cwt) in 1762, — rice farming drove the commodities market and the need for rice slaves. It was so expensive as a labor intensive product, it was monetarily comparable to exports like tobacco and sugar. So were the slaves that were used to grow rice because of their rice technology knowledge.

Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 2.24.53 PM

Prices in Colonial Pennsylvania – by Gray, Bezason, Hussey, pg. 402

Long Grain, Middlins, and Grits, were used for everything from feeding the extremely wealthy, to feeding the slaves. There was an age in the history of  Colonial America in the South, when Cotton wasn’t King, …and Rice was; because you could not sustain life by eating cotton. Carolina Gold fed the wealthy, and Red Bearded or Hill rice fed the slaves.

Henry Laurens once wrote: “The Slaves from the River Gambia are preferr’d to all others with us [here in Carolina] save the Gold Coast…. next to Them the Windward Coast are preferr’d to Angolas.“.

Even though rice growing is based in the task system, early rice production was extremely labor intensive, where the average slave lived no longer than 7 years or less, based on fatigue and disease, and sometimes premature death from wildlife that lived in the swamps. The turnover rate for slaves was so great, that these knowledgeable rice slaves used for rice production required a constant influx of Senegambians captured by force and shipped between “Bance Island” (also known as Bunce Island), located in Tagrin Bay in Sierra Leone, and Sullivan’s Island, in South Carolina. These particular grain slaves fed many turnkey rice growing plantation operations that created a Middle Passage trade in overdrive. Bunce Island was one of hundreds of slave factories and castles that peppered the West coast of the African continent.

Advertisement for slave sale, ca. 1780s

Screen Shot 2020-04-23 at 11.37.34 PMBance Island —  in Tagrin Bay, Sierra Leone


Hume Le Prince Battiste, “The Prince“, was the great-great-great grandson of Peter Hume (1690-1746) and Ann Curtis, the great-great grandson Robert Hume (1729-1766) and Ann Walker, the great grandson of John Hume (1762-1841) and Mary Mazyck, and the grandson of Dr. William Hume (1801-1870) and Julia L. Macbeth. The Hume familial wealth derived from a vast network of Rice plantations and slave breaking plantations owned and operated by the Hume Family, and this is well documented throughout early British American ‘Colonial’ history, Colonial American history, Antebellum history, and post Civil War history. Peter Hume, ‘the Patriarch’ and the head of the Hume clan, settled in South Carolina in 1729. The Hume family line descends from Robert the Bruce of Scotland.

The Anderson intelligencer. (Anderson Court House, S.C.), February 06, 1873

The Anderson Intelligencer – February 06, 1873

What still remains hidden in the shadows of Jim Crow’s legacy to this day, — within this particular family’s history, — is the interracial union between Dr. William Hume and his ‘left handed marriage‘ otherwise known as an arranged relationship to Julia L. Macbeth, who gave birth to the majority of Dr. William Hume’s ‘living’ children. William Hume’s two previous wives, Catherine Simons Lucas and Eleanor “Elinory” Jane Lucas, more than likely succumbed to the ravages of disease in the early American swamp land of South Carolina.

Catherine and Eleanor were sisters, and also the daughters of Johnathan Lucas II, son of John Lucas — inventor of the rice mill, which was a British American invention that revolutionized rice production. These arranged marriages of convenience were quite commonplace in early America, and were considered practical where financial and political reasons were concerned. More than likely, both Catherine and Eleanor died from contracting Yellow Fever, which Dr, William Hume performed a series of obsessional scientific and statistical studies on, of this acute viral haemorrhagic disease and its causes. The causes, which he felt ranged from stagnant water that lay within the boundaries of Charleston proper, to the Middle Passage and West Indies slave trade into Charleston, which brought in a constant influx of the newly infected from Africa and the Caribbean Basin as well.

Catherine bore three children that died before they were a year old; and “Elinory” bore two children that survived until late in life.

Because the Hume/Macbeth plaçage arrangement was not legally recognized as a lawful union bound by the laws of marriage, all children born of Julia L. Macbeth followed the law of Partus Sequitur Ventrem. Where the freedom of the child follows the mother’s status, as far as the law was concerned. As for their familial heirship rights to livestock, chattel goods, land ownership and freehold estate inheritance, there was no recognition at all.

The Wedge, the Hopeswee-on-the-Santee (once owned by Thomas Lynch Sr., obtained in a land grant from King George II, it was also the birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr.), the Goose Creek  rice plantations, and Cat Island slave breaking plantation, along with thousands of acres, — and many other vast real estate holdings in the far reaches of South Carolina, would eventually pass on to the white heirs of the Hume family rice dynasty. Cat Island was a back door to the illegal slave trade from the West Indies, that came out of the Atlantic and entered into Winyah Bay, bypassing established Charlestown malaria, small pox, and yellow fever quarantines.

The Wedge-1923 copy-iThe Wedge Plantation House – circa 1923 (Charleston County)- courtesy of the Georgetown County Library.

Hopsewee Plantation - Georgetown, Georgetown County, South Carolina SC -4
Hopsewee-on-the-Santee Plantation House– – circa 1930 – Georgetown, Georgetown County, South Carolina

Goose Creek Platation Gate
Goose Creek Plantation – Charleston, South Carolina

Robert Hume-mar-24-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal-slavery-3-i
South-Carolina Gazette And Country Journal -Robert Hume’s estate runaway slave ad, 1700’s.

Catl Island-Winyah Bay

There have been those who have contested the concepts surrounding the plaçage common law marriage which took place between wealthy white men and black women; women who were referred to as ‘femmes de couleur‘ who lived among the gens du coleur libres, in early America. Jim Crow revisionist history skewed reality for something as simple as two people being involved in a common law relationship for the sake of mere companionship, as something that should be sensationalized and distorted into the myths, akin to the stories of the Tragic Mulatto like “Clotel, Or the President’s Daughter“, creating the never ending, repetitious circle of archetype vs. trope conundrum. Neither term fits the reality of the relationship between Dr. William Hume and Julia L. Macbeth.

The reasoning for this challenging plaçage created mystery may be caused by the limited amount of research on the issues surrounding plaçage in early America, focused mostly on relationships of couples from the French Quarter in Louisiana, — or specifically the city of New Orleans, — while disregarding all other Southern states and large cities all over the South remain ignored. Things such as ‘quadroon balls’ supposedly never took place. That these extralegal agreements based on plaçage, between two consenting parties, never existed. Some tend to embrace the idea that such arrangements were strictly performed through the use of oral contracts between consenting adults, because very little documentation has been recovered on how plaçage functioned as a contractual agreement. Yet, there is sparse documentation, showing in effect, that such long term arrangements were made between women of color and white men of wealth and prestige.

Some say there is no proof that such lifetime, extralegal relationships and agreements between wealthy men of the South, and what genteel society would consider their concubines, ever took place in civilized, genteel society — for moral and ethical reasons. The historical documentation of a long term relationship between Julia L. Macbeth and Dr. William Hume, showing Julia as his kept common law wife and the father of Julia’s seven living children cannot be disputed.

What financial arrangement or agreements took place between Anna Maria Roberson, Julia L. Macbeth’s mother, and Dr. William Hume still remains a mystery. There was both real estate and chattel property held in trust for Julia by William, and possibly for Anna Maria also; but there was also a reversion clause within the agreed upon arrangements of all holdings, for both Julia and her mother, upon their deaths. It should be noted for all intents and purposes, that Julia became William’s common law wife at the age of nineteen. And, their relationship lasted for close to two decades, until his death.

Hume’s mother, Martha Julia Hume Battiste, was born in April of 1866, after the Civil War ended, and her legacy to her father Dr. William Hume was to name her only child, Hume ‘le Prince’, after her father’s surname. The conception of a number of Julia’s children took place while Dr. William Hume was still teaching at the ‘South Carolina Military Academy’, also known as  “The Citadel“, where he was a noted Professor of Chemistry, Geology, Mineralogy, and Experimental Science. Dr. William Hume was most admired, among his many accomplishments, for being the “last man at the Citadel” during the Civil War, as the young men of the Academy marched off to the Battle of Tulifinny.

Dr. William Hume-Citadel 1860

“Official Register of the Officers and Cadets at the South Carolina Military Academy” – November 1849, pg.3

John A. Hume-"Comings St." 1869
Freedmen’s Bureau Records – 1869 – John Hume, son of Julia L. Macbeth and Dr. William Hume, registered his family with the Freedmen’s Bureau, showing his brothers, William Hume, Edward Hume, Thomas Hume, Alford Hume, and sisters Martha Julia (Mattie) Hume and Anna Maria Hume. All of them lived in a two room house at 146 Comings Street, in Charleston, S.C. in 1869.

At the age of thirteen, John Hume, Batiste’s uncle who was named after his maternal grandfather, worked at the Shaw Memorial School, named after Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment. As a Southern raised African American living in the post Civil War South, working at a school named after the Colonel that lead the assault on Fort Wagner, in Charleston, South Carolina, — during the rise of Jim Crow — seemed like risky business. Given his ability to read and write, that was a risky enough venture during Reconstruction period in the South.

Census_of_the_city_of_Charleston_South_C-pg. 72 copy
Census of the City of Charleston, South Carolina -1861,  pg. 72, showing No. 146 Comings Street, owned by Dr. William Hume, occupied by Julia L. Macbeth, Free Person of Color.

Dr. William Hume also lived in a property held in trust, located at No. 4 Mill Street, in Charleston, S.C., that was willed to his other children, William H. Hume and Annie Hume Mazyck; they were living children of Eleanor Jane Lucas Hume.

Reports of Committees- 30th Congress, 1st Session - 48th Congress ..., Volume 2

Reports of Committees: 45th Congress, 2nd Session – Senate, Report 460, June 4, 1878, to accompany Senate Bil 1352, page 7.

The “Old Citadel” has been renamed “Marion Square“, after General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox”. It is located within 8 minutes walking distance of 146 Comings Street, the former dwelling of Julia L. Macbeth. It should be noted that Julia L. Macbeth remained at 146 Coming Street, with her children, till at least the year 1880, according to the U.S. Census records. It should also be noted that Dr. William Hume passed away April 18, 1870, which means Julia remained in this dwelling ten years after his death.

146 Comings to Citadel-Old Map
Citadel Academy– Charleston S.C. Map,  1864

6th Ward-146 Comings St. Between Warren and Ratdliffe

6th Ward -146 Comings Street – Between Warren and Radcliffe, Charleston S.C. Map, 1855

146 Comings to Citadel-Google Map146 Comings Street to Marion Square

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 6.32.44 PMJulia Macbeth – U.S. 1880 Census Record showing, No. 146 Comings Street – son Edward, daughter Martha, and Julia’s mother,  AnnaMaria” Roberson.

Yes, Hume Le Prince Battiste had both a former slave owning white family, and a Free Person of Color black family, which tells a seldom discussed history and truth of how America developed as a nation. That is truly the fascinating part about the Hume family legacy, along with the Lucas, Simons, Mayzck, Gadsden, and Doar families intertwined by marriage with the Humes. The fact is, Hume Le Prince Battiste ‘passed‘ for Native American successfully and no one ever questioned it. Even though they knew the truth. And as far as it is known about Battiste chosing to identifying as an “Indian”, he was the only person in the history of professional baseball to have gotten away with ‘passing’ for his entire baseball career; which was short lived and far away from the his ancestral birthplace in Beaufort County, South Carolina. The story behind Battiste passing as a Native American is one that was concocted by both sides of his family, and carried on by others for a number of reasons.

1) Because of his intelligence, Hume would be granted opportunities in life that the majority of his African American family could never take advantage of, based on the white family-black family legacy and their age, — where the ‘one-drop rule’ applied in the United States, and applied to al those with one drop of black blood in their family’s blood line.

2) Because his heritage as Southern Royalty overrode his dark complexion, although many people knew what family he came from, even if they never spoke of it aloud. It was very much an ‘open secret‘, and a dangerous position to be placed in, when living in the Jim Crow South, — if you were a person of color.

3) Because certain mixed children of Dr. William Hume took advantage of the limited freedom they were born with, and acquired an education that had eluded them during slavery times. Proposing to advance African American society through education and politics, these mixed children of Dr. William Hume exercised their influence on South Carolina African American society to the best of their ability. Being born as a Free Person of Color in South Carolina still had imposed racial limitations and a stringent set of rules when it came to movement within the state, as well as beyond state lines, and also limitations imposed on formal education.

From 1900 to 1920, Jim Crow below the Mason-Dixon line was a ruthless part of Southern culture and existence. This reassertion of white supremacy, after the Civil War, was primarily the main reason for the Great Migration. The Reconstruction Period had been a dismal failure, and not everyone had the ability to leave the Deep South. Beaufort County was a place where African Americans suffered deeply under the restraints of Jim Crow, institutionalized racism, and segregation as well. Beaufort County was also 82.8% black during the Civil War, which was not unusual for this densely populated rice growing county of the South. By 1900, South Carolina’s African American population in Beaufort County was 90.5%.

Slavery Distribution Chart 2Slavery Distribution Chart – 1861 U.S. Census, Department of Interior

The Negro Population-pg. 13-Walter WilcoxThe Negro Population – by Walter Wilcox, population chart, pg. 23, Negroes in the United States

Battiste was born in Grahamville, Beaufort County, South Carolina, on Dec. 2, 1891, according to his mausoleum plaque and extrapolation from from other sources. Some sources state that his his year of birth was earlier, and some place it slightly later. The importance of his year of birth in particular has to do with the idea that Hume, and a good deal of his family, survived the Sea Island Hurricane, which took the lives of over 2,000 African Americans in Lowcountry South Carolina in August of 1893. Surviving the growing tide of Jim Crow racism would be another matter all together. The lynching of Frazier B. Baker and his two-year old daughter, Julia Baker, set the tone of the resentment against educated African Americans remaining in the post Civil War Deep South.

Hume grew up on the grounds of the ‘South Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical Institute’, with his mother, “Mattie”, his aunt Anna Maria Hume Miller (Mattie’s older sister), his uncle by marriage, Thomas Ezekiel Miller, and his grandmother, Julia L. Macbeth, along with his cousins. Today, this mechanical institute is known as South Carolina State University, but back in 1900 it was simply called the “State Colored School”. As the companion school of Claflin University, Hume grew up watching African American men play football, basketball, and baseball, and run track at Claflin. Watching them play competitively, in a team oriented environment, had a tremendous impact on how young Hume viewed the world around him.

His uncle, Miller, was so light skinned in his complexion, that the press often referred to him as “Canary Bird Miller“. Being President of the college, and a top tier educator of one of the first historically black colleges and universities, Miller stressed the importance on education his children, as well as on his nephew, Hume. Growing up, immersed in this educational environment, gave Hume the edge when it came to school work. Uncle Thomas was Hume’s most important father figure, as Hume’s own father, John Battiste died when Hume was very young, leaving Martha a young widow at a very early age.

Claflin_University_Football_1899Claflin University Football Team -1899

SCS-Close Up
Hume Le Prince Battiste -U.S. Census 1900 ‘screenshot’, living at the “State Colored School”

Thoma E. Miller
Thomas Ezekiel Miller

Thoma E. Miller-Masonary Class-1896-1898-Bradham HallThomas E. Miller – with the Masonry Class – 1896-1898  -Bradham Hall, South Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical Institute.

Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 11.18.49 AM
Hume Le Prince Battiste – age twelve – photo by William Augustus Reckling (1850-1913) – Reckling & Sons Photographers – courtesy of the Battiste Family Collection.

This photograph of Hume Le Prince Battiste at the age of twelve, taken by William August Reckling, says a lot about the financial status of Hume’s black family. Reckling was a extremely well known photography, who documented the Reconstruction era in South Carolina.

Hume had contracted almost every known childhood disease before the age of twelve. By the age of thirteen, Battiste had gone completely deaf, caused by a case of Scarlet Fever. The law of separate but equal existed in South Carolina in 1904, but schools for hearing impaired Africa American children didn’t exist. In seeking the best education that could provide Hume with the best opportunities in life, — that only a school for the hearing impaired could offer, — Battiste and his mother moved to Philadelphia to live among ‘The Souls Of Black Folk’ in Philadelphia’s famous ‘7th Ward’.

Their small dwelling, located at 506 South Ninth Street, between Lombard and South Street, was described as a “Middle Class” neighborhood. Some of America’s most notable African American ball players came out of the 7th Ward. Octavius Catto being one of them. Battiste’s first experience with Philadelphia would be spending a portion of his youth growing up in Pythian Base Ball Club territory. Catto too, was also a South Carolinian, upper-middle-class, Free Person of Color’ transplant to Philadelphia’s 7th Ward, whose former 7th Ward residence was located near the corner of Eighth Street and South Street. just a block from Battiste’s new 7th Ward trappings.

W.E.B. Du Bois lived in the 7th Ward at 700 Lombard Street.

Hume’s early introduction to city living may have been Orangeburg, Charleston or Columbia, had he remained in the South; but living in Philadelphia would have been a much different experience, as well as an extremely refreshing cosmopolitan exposure to social integration, compared to the legalized racial restrictions he had experienced in South Carolina. Quakers, Irish, Welsh, Dutch, Swedes, were just a few new cultures that Hume would be exposed to, and influenced by. It would also living North of the Mason Dixon line during a period when the Philadelphia Giants reigned supreme as ‘thee baseball team’ for people of color. And although segregation still chose the areas where one resided, the daily interactions between white people and black people were far more open and far less restrictive, especially for children.

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 8.14.09 PMMap of a portion of the “7th Ward” – “The Philadelphia Negro“, by W.E.B. Du Bois.

Philadelphia 7th Ward-original_map_legend

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 9.33.01 AM“The History And Life Of Octavius V. Catto, And Trial Of Frank Kelly”, compiled by Henry H Griffin, pg.6

The connection between Philadelphia and cities in the South, particularly cities in South Carolina, reached back long before the Civil War began. While “Mattie” worked as a seamstress and teacher in a 7th Ward school, Hume was accept and placed in the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb boarding school, also known as the “Mt. Airy School“.

Mount Airy School-Penn.-PMSIA_1880

Penn. Institute For The Deaf and Dumb 1904-1908Hume L. Battiste – school records – ‘Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb

Hume’s high school records mentioned nothing about his participation in sports while attending Mt. Airy, but he had to learn them somewhere, based on his ability in track, football, basketball, and baseball. He was a favorite student of A.C. Manning, one of the many teachers at the Mt. Airy campus. Manning took such a special interest in Battiste, that he wrote young Hume a stellar letter of recommendation, that helped him get into Gallaudet College. Hume was the victim of intense bullying at Mt. Airy. Some of it based on his intelligence; some of it based on his athletic skills. Most of it based on his dark complexion. So much so, that this is where the beginning of the total reinvention of Hume Le Prince Battiste life as a Native American began.

Battiste Recommendation Letter-Page 1

Letter of recommendation for Hume Le Prince Battiste from A.C. Manning to Edward Miner Gallaudet -1908, courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives.

One of Hume’s other relatives connected by marriage, DuBose Heyward, through his Uncle, Thomas E. Miller, — once wrote a play in the 1930’s called “Brass Ankles“. This pejorative term was used mainly in South Carolina for many mixed raced people, derived from European and African relationships with the people of the Catawba Nation of early South Carolina. Escaped African slaves or African American Free People of Color, and people European heritage, along with the Catawba, made up this tri-racial isolate indigenous to early America .

Heyward was the descendant of Judge Thomas Heyward, Jr., a South Carolinian signer of the United States Declaration of Independence, just as Hume was the descendant of John Hume, who was the aide to General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox”. This tri-racial isolate gene pool ran through both the Hume and Heyward families.

Written is 1931, Heyward’s play showed the deep emotional impact behind the racial rules of the present day Jim Crow of the 1930’s, and what two-hundred and forty-six years of “amalgamation” had accomplished as a previous practice that preceded Jim Crow’s socially outlawed miscegenation between the races. Vilified by Jim Crow, amalgamation was a very huge part of the making of United States, before the Civil War. The Code Noir was malleable within a certain extent; both flexible and inflexible, depending on one’s political and financial status. The Black Codes instituted at the conclusion of the Civil War were unforgiving and brutal. “Brass Ankles“, as a play, was truly ahead of its time and poignantly brutal; but the play also served as a Heywood familial confession of sorts; — another ‘open secret‘ kept by the Heyward family, that has been proven to be accurate, and confirmed by the work of historians Eric Foner and Stephen Middleton, when it comes to the matrilineal lineage of Thomas E. Miller.

The discussion about whether Hume Le Prince Battiste was actually an African American or a Native American, is one that has been tossed back and forth for the last three decades. Surface genealogy had declared Battiste to be a Native American, and rightfully so, based on what information was available at the time the Native American heritage claim was made in the early 20th century. Certain societal values had been included, to keep the legacy of the ‘first Native American to attend Gallaudet University’ intact; or so Edward Miner, president of Gallaudet College, had professed this stellar, progressive achievement far and wide, in the early 1900’s.

Allowing a person of indigenous ancestry to attend Gallaudet was a huge undertaking. Hampton or the Carlisle Indian Industrial School would have been the normal route for a Native American pursing a formal education. A plan of action had been devised by Gallaudet University to keep Battiste’s real racial heritage a secret, while at the same time, foster and exploit the concept this concocted Native America identity for Hume to its fullest, so he would be accepted by the entire student body of Gallaudet — without question. It was a bold plan, and there was a tiny grain of truth to Hume’s passing as a Native American.

According to the “Register Of Carolina Huguenot; Partial Listing Of 81 Refugee Families”, Vol. 1, Bacon-Dupont, by Edward Lining Manigualt and Horry Frost Prioleau, page 7, shows the three spouses of Dr. William Hume, including Julia L. Macbeth — who was said to have been “1/4 American Indian”. This would have at best, made Hume 1/16, or 6.25% Native American. When this information is correlated with “Free Blacks and Mulattos in South Carolina 1850 Census”, by Margaret Peckham Motes, we see a Census transcription showing data for Julia L. Macbeth that has her racial designation as “black”. Not “mulatto”; not “Indian”.

The Catawba population in South Carolina was so small during the early 1900’s, that it would have been literally impossible to verify Hume’s Siouan heritage, if it were ever questioned. Some would say yes, while others would claim ignorance. But the truth would never lead back to his black or white families. One would have to go backwards, three generations from the time of Hume’s grandmother’s birth, to see where his Native American ancestry began.

***Pierre Buretel-Hume-Dr. William Hume-Julia Macbeth-7

Register Of Carolina Huguenot; Partial Listing Of 81 Refugee Families” – pg.7

Free Blacks and Mulattos in South Carolina 1850 Census-i
Free Blacks and Mulattos in South Carolina 1850 Census“.

In 1909, Battiste entered Gallaudet College, which is now known as Gallaudet University, a bright-eyed freshman, whose main goal was to letter in as many sports as he could. He wasn’t the sure footed Bison pitcher he’d come to be during his first year. Playing mostly First Base and Second Base, and sometimes shortstop, Hume traded off Bison pitching duties with Vernon”Cotton” Birck.

March 14, 1909The Washington Herald – March 14, 1909

Battiste-Unknown-Vernon S. "Cotton" BirckLeft to Right: Battiste, Unknown, Vernon “Cotton” Birck – Gallaudet Bisons Baseall 1912

The deception all began, and all not so innocently, — by promoting the idea in the 1909 East Coast sporting newspapers, that this up and coming Bison athlete, Hume Le Prince Battiste,  was a “full blooded Indian”. This of course was a fallacy. A totally created fictional narrative, repeated over and over again, year after year, backed up with many high praising superlatives and stereotypical phrases of the day, — used to describe Native Americans in the world of sports.

Chief Battiste“, “Scalper Battiste“, “Tom Long Boat“, “Injun“, “Redskin” etc. ran in the sporting section every other day, until the idea the Hume was actually a full-blood Sioux Indian from “Pennsylvania” was embedded in the minds of everyone around him. They never once mentioned that he was born and raised South of the Mason Dixon line in the Deep South. That the Prince’s middle name stood out on its own. That wasn’t their concern. The newspapers created an illusion, which in turn produced a phenomena that could not be fully disputed until recent times. And to this day, there are those who still believe Hume Le Prince Battiste is a Native American.

Evening star, April 04, 1909

Evening Star– April 04, 1909

Gallaudet College Catalogue, 1909-1910Gallaudet College Catalogue, 1909-1910

1911 Track-Full sized
1911 Track –  Seated Left to Right: Henry S. Morris, Homer E. Grace, Grover C. Farquar, Hume Le Prince Battiste. Standing Left to Right: Iva M. Robinson, Harry Gardener, J. Wilbur Gledhill. – courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives.

1911 Football-Full sized1911 Football – courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives.

1912-1913 Fives-Full Size1912-1913 Fives – courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives

The Washington Evening Star and the Washington Herald, ran story after story on the phenomenal exploits of this athlete, who some felt was comparable to the likes of Jim Thorpe. Stationed as the Bison’s Left End, or playing Quarterback, Hume was known for his speed and agility on the field, and his ‘broken field’ running. As a Center on the Buff and Blue basketball team, he led the team to many wins. As a track star, he was amazingly fast, who ran the 220, 440, and 880 with ease and grace.

Hume was team Captain of almost every sport he was involved in, for every year he attended Gallaudet. Between 1909 and 1913, Hume’s athletic exploits were a major part of the Gallaudet’s campus newsletter, the Buff And Blue. Where the concept of Hume being the ‘publicly well known Native American athlete‘ attending the predominately ‘all-white’ Bison campus in the ‘Age of Jim Thorpe’, — was all the rage.  The idea being, – build the image and illusion of racial acceptance with continuity, then publish it as plausible truth above all else.

The Buff and Blue- Vol. 19, no. 3 (1910- Dec.)-pg. 120
Buff and Blue – Vol. 19, No. 3, Dec. 1910 – pg. 120

Football-The Washington Herald, October 17, 1909The Washington Herald – October 17, 1909

The Washington Herald. October 24, 1909
The Washington Herald – October 24, 1909, photo by National Press Association

April 17, 1910 Gallaudet Baseabll Team Photo
The Washington Herald -April 17, 1910 Gallaudet Baseaball Team, photo by National Press Association

The Washington herald., October 23, 1910
The Washington Herald –
October 23, 1910, photo by National Press Association

Track-The Washington-Gallaudet Speedy Quartet- Times, May 05, 1912.pdf
Washington Times –
Gallaudet’s Speedy Quartet- Times, May 05, 1912

Basketball-The Washington Herald., February 12, 1911
Washington Evening Star – February 12, 1911

Evening Star 10-29-1911

Washington Evening Star – Oct. 29, 1911

Football-Honolulu Star-bulletin, October 03, 1912
Honolulu Star Bulletin – October 03, 1912 (noting Jim Thorpe and Hume L. Battiste)

The Official National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Guide-pg 160The Official National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Guide – 1911, pg. 160

In 1912, Walter “The Big Train” Johnson was sent by the “Old Fox“, Clark Griffith, to scout Hume as a possible recruit for the Washington Senators. Griffith had been interested in Battiste for quite some time. So he sent his best pitcher to judge of pitching delivery of Battiste, to see if this young man brought the heat and benders.

Walter Johnson on Battiste Mar. 8, 1912

The Washington Herald – March 08, 1912

Track-Evening Star-Two Local Colleges-March 28, 1912The Evening Star – March 28, 1912

For the most part, “Old Fox” Griffith liked his pitchers to dominate the batters box and plate with their height and weight. In the year 1913, Walter Johnson was 6′-1″ and 200 lbs.  Bob Groom was 6′-2″ and 175 lbs. Joe Boehling was 5′-11″ and 168 lbs, and Joe Engel was 6′-1″ and 183 lbs. These are the examples Hume would have to live up to. Hume always had a very slight build, whose frame was built for speed; 5′-10″ and 150lbs soaking wet. And he had a hard time maintaining that weight because he had a very high metabolism. It was no secret that he ate like a horse. His height was out of proportion to the weight required to impress the “Old Fox” with his pitching skills.

Johnson was known as a “power pitcher”. Everything about his frame spoke of power.

****The Washington herald., March 07, 1913The Washington Herald – March 07, 1913

Battiste pushed his own narrative about being a Native American, and left it to be judged in the court of public opinion.

******The Washington herald., March 09, 1913, Sporting Section, Page 2The Washington Herald – March 09, 1913

This leaves one pondering Griffith’s intentions when it came to Battiste as a prospect. What was it that he saw in Battiste, when he already had Joe Engel from Mount St. Mary’s College? Engel, like Battiste, was a four-sport all around athlete. What was the “Old Fox” up to in 1913?

The answer comes into clearer focus when you place Roberto Estalella into Griffith’s ‘breaking the color line’ equation in 1935. Griffith was way ahead of his time, but the majority of players and fans had yet to reach this level of racial acceptance with the National Pastime in 1913. Griffith began planting the seeds of baseball integration, along with others within the sport, knowing one day they would fully bloom. All great changes begin with an idea.

Training camp-The Washington herald, May 11, 1913The Washington Herald – May 11, 1913

In 1938, in an interview with the Washington Tribune, Griffith was quoted as saying:

There are few big-league magnates who are not aware of the fact that the time is not far off when colored players will take their places beside those of other races in the major leagues. However, I’m not sure that time has arrived yet. . . . A lone Negro in the game will face caustic comments. He will be made the target of cruel, filthy epithets. Of course, I know the time will come when the ice will have to be broken. Both by the organized game and by the colored player who is willing to volunteer and thus become a sort of martyr to the cause.

The Buff and Blue- Vol. 21, no. 6 (1913- Mar.)

The Buff and Blue – Vol. 21, No. 6 – Mar. 1913 – pg. 230

Hume got into a bit of trouble at Gallaudet. Girl trouble. For some reason, this did not sit well with board of Regents or the President of Gallaudet. Some say he was expelled. Others say he left of his own accord. Racism probably played a large role in Hume’s departure. Percival Hall of course was not E.M. Gallaudet by any standard. The reason for his leaving in March of 1913 is still unclear, but his desire to turn professional for the Washington Senators, if at all possible, was rock solid . His weight was still a obstacle.

The Washington herald, May 21, 1913-i

The Washington herald, May 21, 1913-ii

The Washington herald, May 21, 1913-iii

The Washington Herald – May 21, 1913

The “Old Fox” offered to “place” Hume with any “Class B league“. There is power in that statement. The fact that Clark Griffith liked what he saw, and knew he could place Hume with a Class B team, meant calling in favors, or people who the “Old Fox” knew would have no problem Hume’s complexion. Still, there was a sense the Griffith could see what Hume really was. Dark skinned. Educated. Light of Frame. Problematic. Ahead of his time, as well as talented. In other words; too much trouble for the Big Show, for both the Washington Senators and the fans.

Hume regarded Griffith’s sage wisdom about playing a year in a Class B league as a wise decision and good advice. Yet, between trying to complete his education at Gallaudet through correspondence, and work at National Carbonics, Hume had little time for baseball, other than playing for the McIntyres in Cleveland on the sandlots. Battiste finally received his degree in Oct. of 1913. He never returned to Gallaudet to graduate with his class.

****-Forest City McIntyres-The Washington herald., July 16, 1913, Page 8The Washington Herald – July 16, 1913.

Before Battiste left Ohio, he left his baseball mark on the Cleveland sandlots, and Cleveland Athletic Club, as one of their top 220 yard dash, 440 yard dash, 880 yard dash, 220 hurdles, and Broad Jump athletes. This was the same track club that trained Jesse Owens to become an Olympic athlete and gold medal champion.

The Sporting Life, March 21, 1914Sporting Life – March 21, 1914

Screen Shot 2020-04-22 at 12.03.27 PM
The Silent Worker_vol. 34_no. 9_June_1922The Silent Worker – Vol. 34, No. 9, June 1922

Walter “Judge” McCredie owned the Portland Colts, of the Northwestern League, as well as the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League. Of course in 1914, the Colts were a Class B League team, and considered “professional”, and the Beavers, in 1914, were a Class AA League team. “Judge” McCredie consider the Colts his personal farm league, and why not? In 1914, the “Judge” made plans to integrate the PCL. This drew the ire of  J. Cal Ewing and Allan T. Baum, and the majority of the PCL management and players. In reality, what McCredie actually did, was sort of a shell and pea game. It wasn’t until Dec. of 1914, that Lang Akana was recruited by McCredie to play on the Beavers, while no one really noticed that he had hired and African American, and slipped Hume into the line-up to play with the Colts.

The Oregon daily journal., March 31, 1914, Page 10, Image 10The Oregon Daily Journal – March 31, 1914

Lang Akana-The Sunday Oregonian., December 27, 1914, SECTION TWO, Image 17-i

Lang Akana-The Sunday Oregonian., December 27, 1914, SECTION TWO, Image 17-ii

Lang Akana-The Sunday Oregonian., December 27, 1914, SECTION TWO, Image 17-iii

The Sunday Oregonian – December 27, 1914

Hume had a much darker complexion than Lang Akana. This was just plain fact. Possessing a dark complexion was the main complaint about Akana, when it came to being received on the Beavers roster by his future teammates. Yet, the Hume did not receive the same berating insults that Akana did, because he was thought to be Native American. McCredie had no problem with his teams playing against African American teams. Because they were a big ticket draw, McCredie had a long standing agreement with the Chicago American Giants whenever they barnstormed the West Coast.

As far as I know, Hume pitched three games against the Chicago American Giants, while they toured through California and Oregon in 1914. One of those games he won. He lost two. He played a total of five games for the Portland Colts in the Northwestern League, under the management of Nick Williams before Battiste was released.

***Williams vs. Battiste-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, March 28, 1914-i

***Williams vs. Battiste-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, March 28, 1914-ii

Morning Oregonian– March 28, 1914

***Battiste Holds Giants-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, April 02, 1914-i

***Battiste Holds Giants-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, April 02, 1914-ii
Morning Oregonian – April 02, 1914

***Chief Battiste-The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, April 12, 1914.pdf
***Chief Battiste-The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, April 12, 1914-i

***Chief Battiste-The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, April 12, 1914-ii.

The Sunday Oregonian –  April 12, 1914

***Colts vs. Chicago Giants-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, April 13, 1914-i
***Colts vs. Chicago Giants-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, April 13, 1914-ii
Morning Oregonian – April 13, 1914

How many of the Chicago American Giants were barnstorming through Oregon in 1914, that once played for the Philadelphia Giants? Who Hume grew up watching or reading about them in the newspapers, — while growing up in the 7th Ward in Philadelphia, and wanting to be just like them, — only to get a chance to play against some of his childhood heroes?

Pete Hill? Bruce Pettaway? Pete Booker? Rube Foster? John Henry “Pop” Lloyd? Bill Francis? Bill Monroe? The same Chicago American Giants team that played against the Pacific Coast League’s Portland Beavers in a four game series in 1914.

Its probably the stuff dreams are made from. To win a game against them.

The most memorable moment for the Chicago American Giants, where Battiste was concerned, was a Bill Monroe practical joke moment. They probably had no idea that this kid pitching against them was a ‘7th Ward” Philadelphia kid from their early careers in baseball.

****Monroe-Battiste-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, March 24, 1915.pdf
Morning Oregonian – March 24, 1915

Playing five games for the Portland Colts of the Northwestern League in 1914 and seven games for the Spokane Indians of the Pacific Coast International League in 1918, — for a total of twelve games played in Class B professional baseball. And although Hume survived the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, during the end of World War I, the Pacific Coast International League did not survive.

The Oregon daily journal., May 05, 1918, Page 19, Image 19

The Oregon Daily Journal – May 05, 1918

Spokane Daily Chronicle- pg. 19 | May 10, 1918-i

Spokane Daily Chronicle – May 10, 1918

This also gives us a real glimpse at the people who also played a part in this early integration of baseball. Like Walter Johnson, Clark Griffith, Walter McCredie, and Nick Williams. It gives a different perspective on these men who were mentioned more than once when it came to African Americans, and the profession of baseball where the color line was drawn. They all played significant and instrumental roles in Battiste having the opportunity to pitch in Class B professional baseball; and this explains, in part, the depths of their interactions and associations with African American ball players throughout their entire careers.

As far as I know, Hume Le Prince Battiste is the only African American; 1) who successfully passed as a Native American during his professional baseball career; 2) pitched against an African American team (Chicago American Giants) before the Negro Leagues were organized by Rube Foster; 3) won against an African American team while playing on an all-white team (Portland Colts); 4) possessed unmistakable athletic comparisons to Jackie Robinson 5) was the first African American to letter in collegiate track and field, baseball, basketball, and football while being chosen Captain of these teams.

Battiste broke the professional baseball color line before Jimmy Claxton and Jackie Robinson.

He also chased baseball, football, basketball and track for many years after he played for the Spokane Indians, playing for industrial league teams, like the Goodyear Silents/Mutes. The story of Hume Le Prince Battise living as a Native American has remained intact for over 50 years, far after he passed away in Pico Rivera, California, in 1968. His African American heritage was first call into question and asserted in 1983, in the book “Black and Deaf in America, Are We that Different”, by Ernest Hairston and Linwood Smith.  As of the 1940 U.S. Census, Hume Le Prince Battiste went from “Black”, to “Indian”/Catawba, to “White”, never looking back.

The truth was, he was all three,… in a manner of speaking.

Screen Shot 2020-04-30 at 3.36.05 PMHume Le Prince Battiste – U.S. Census 1930

Screen Shot 2020-04-29 at 1.36.22 AMHume Le Prince Battiste – U.S. Census 1940

Even though it has been challenged more than once, the idea of him being anything other than “Chief Battiste the Native American” has been argued back and forth. And the topic of Hume being an African American has faded in and out for over half a century — and never really explored, in depth, from all sides of his family’s lineage. Hume’s heritage is still disputed till this very day. So much more happened for Hume after he was released from the Portland Colts, where he pursued many other professional endeavors. “Bats” achieved his scholarly pursuits, and was a chemist and scientist, who created a vulcanization process that kept him flush his entire life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and namesake, Dr. William Hume.

Unlike the Hume family of old, “Bats” led a simple life as a self employed gas station owner. The story of Hume Le Prince Battiste’s rice family legacy has not been told until this moment, as far as I am aware of.  Luckily, his story also includes baseball, and his story of breaking the color line into professional baseball will endure the test of time.

The Lew Hubbard Giants and the Lord of the Slums

The Oregon daily journal., May 31, 1914, Page 25, Image 25
The Oregon Daily Journal – May 31, 1914

There once was a time when Portland, Oregon was one of the most decadent places on Earth. To view it now one could never imagine the underbelly of a growing city, once vied for every illegal activity known to mankind in the early 1900’s. Gambling, prostitution, bootlegging, unsanctioned boxing, et. al,  were the daily staples of a Portland that men traveled near and far  — to indulge their darker side. Yes, —  it’s all true, and according to the Report of the Portland Vice Commission of 1913, commissioned by the Mayor and City Council, the investigation into hotels, apartments, rooming and lodging house showed that, out of 547 that were investigated for on going illegal activities, 431 of them were found to be immoral houses of ill repute.

This means that in 1913 in the city of Portland, there was a 78% chance of the men traveling to Portland, would be involved in some sort of illicit activity.

Houses of iniquity were quite common in early Portland. It was a place where betting and heavy drinking consumed one and all; where loose women and roguish men played, and bawdy houses were common sight. There has always been a certain amount of speculation as to the reasons why the Lew Hubbard Giants uniforms used dice decals to represent the player’s number on the back of their jerseys, and the reason their ball club’s location at 326 1/2 Couch Street,  was found deep in the heart of Old Town – Chinatown. These facts should clear up any suspicions why these choices were made.

Seven come Eleven‘ in this part of town was a way of life in the 1900’s.

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Lew Hubbard Giants Letterhead – 1912

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This burgeoning community of 1900’s Portland was segregated by race in some instances, but that had little bearing on the illicit trade that took place all over early Portland. As for Lew Hubbard, AKA Horace Llewelyn Hubbard, any side gigs, from boxing to baseball, was supplemental income from his regular job as a mail clerk for the Board of Fire Underwriter Insurance Company.

The area in question, where the Lew Hubbard Giants operated in, where women like Rosie Copple and Blanche Rollo were frequently arrested for “vagrancy” AKA solictation, speaks to the seedy bars and back street alleyways that were seen in such movies as, “Eight Men Out”. The temperance movement had little impact on early Portland. It was a booze hound’s paradise. The West wasn’t always tamed, and early Portland reflected how rough and tumble life was in the West. It may be the reason that men like Charles “Swede” Risberg decided to open a bar in Weed, California after the infamous Chicago Black Sox scandal.

Old TownChinatown” in Portland was famous for many things, including the Lew Hubbard Giants base of operation; particularly Old Town’s network of underground tunnels, used for Shanghaiing the unsuspecting inebriated fellow by ne’er do wells, secret underground gambling establishments — where games of chance took place twenty-four seven around the clock, and also for the secret movement of the bootlegging trade — which brought in the outlawed substances from the mouth of the Columbia River that connected with the Willamette River.

Portland was Las Vegas before Las Vegas was conceived.

Vice Map Legend – Report of the Portland Vice Commission – 1913

Portland Vice Map Legend with Google Map overlay

326 NW Couch Street
326 Couch Street, Portland OR

1913 Couch Street Vice overlay
326 Couch Street, Portland OR – “Old TownChinatown” with Google Map overlay

This area was so popular with the ‘sporting crowd’, even Walter McCredie owned a billiard room, located at 128 1/2 6th Street (now Avenue), just two blocks from the boarding house that the Lew Hubbard Giants operated out of. “Judge” McCredie had a tremendous rapport with people of color, and he was more than likely connected with Lew Hubbard in some manner of sorts, using him as an ambassador when the Chicago American Giants barnstormed through Oregon, without ever revealing his involvement with Hubbard to the public. The Golden West Hotel was located at the corner of Broadway and Everett St., in the heart of this racially segregated community, not far from the Lew Hubbard Giants base of operation.

The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, July 10, 1910
The Sunday Oregonian – July 10, 1910

April 11, 1914-Chicago American Giants
Morning Oregonian – April 11, 1914

Oregon-1915 Chicago American Giants in Portland postcard
Chicago American Giants at the Golden West Hotel, Portland, Oregon, 1915

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John H. Wilson was a bit of a color character himself. As President and Treasure of the Lew Hubbard Giants AKA Colored Giants of Portland, Wilson held a tight grip on the club’s purse strings, which included all events that ran out of the club. His titles gave the Lew Hubbard Giants legitimacy, even though said legitimacy was limited to the world of African Americans in early, segregated Portland. He was Oregon’s Gus Greenlee of sorts, running rackets from this personal den of iniquity. He ran the “gentleman’s club” where the Lew Hubbard Giants held court. And, according to those in the know, Wilson was well connected with the mucky-mucks ‘downtown,’ whenever his establishment was rousted by the overly eager patrolmen. There was nothing Wilson wouldn’t lay a bet on, including his own freedom from incarceration.

In most cases, he was correct.

****John H. Wilson-Couch Street-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, October 30, 1911
Morning Oregonian – October 30, 1911

Wilson was also a boxing promoter of questionable reputation, which included licensed and unlicensed boxers, promoting sanctioned and unsanctioned bouts. These questionable “scientific boxing” events often included Lew Hubbard, Bobby Evans, and Kid Espisito. Lew Hubbard fought under the name “Lou Hubbard”, and only had one “professional” bout in his lifetime, which lasted less than three rounds. Hubbard, his opponent Dick Rhoades — and the referee, all fell out of the ring and landed in the crowd, which some considered a street brawl. The fight between Hubbard and Rhodes was ruled  ‘no contest’.

***Lou Hubbard-Boxer-Oregon Athletic Club Smoker-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, January 18, 1910
Morning Oregonian – January 18, 1910

***Lou Hubbard-Boxer-Foul Says Long And Quits fight-Hubbard and Rhoades-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, January 22, 1910
Morning Oregonian – January 22, 1910

***Lou Hubbard-Boxer-The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, April 24, 1910
The Sunday Oregonian – April 24, 1910

By May of 1910, the match staged between Hubbard and Rhodes on Jan. 20th of that year, came under the scrutiny of the Portland’s Municipal Association Morals Commission, for more or less an exhibition of fisticuffs that turned in a violent brawl. The men who promoted the match, former Detective Patrick Maher and John T. Wilson would have to answer to charges of immorality and embezzlement, for staging “prize fights” where no prizes was ever offered to the winners of the events. Eventually, John T. Wilson was out of the picture and Maher and Hubbard were indicted for fraud.

***Hubbard And Wilson-Boxing-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, May 07, 1910-i
***Hubbard And Wilson-Boxing-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, May 07, 1910-ii
Morning Oregonian -May 7, 1910

***Lou Hubarrd-Boxer-The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, May 08, 1910-i
***Lou Hubarrd-Boxer-The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, May 08, 1910-ii
The Sunday Oregonian -May 8, 1910

***Lew M Hubbard-Boxing-The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, June 05, 1910-i
***Lew M Hubbard-Boxing-The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, June 05, 1910-ii
The Sunday Oregonian – June 5, 1910

Hubbard asked the judge to allow him to be tried in a separate trial, without all the others who had been indicted. The trial never took place that summer. It was a “test case”, the first of its kind in Portland and Hubbard made bail; but he was scapegoated every step of the way. The long and short of this story is this: crooked cops make crooked politicians, and Hubbard was caught in the middle between Maher and Wilson; for Hubbard was neither cop nor politician. This 1910 incident thrust Horace Llewelyn Hubbard into local fame as a burgeoning welterweight, and someone who knew his way around the boxing ring.

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The Sunday Oregonian – May 1, 1910

What seemed like nothing more than a mediocre task of boxing performed for your dinner, then possibly ending up in jail for prize fighting at an unsanctioned event, catapulted Hubbard into the ranks of one of Oregon’s most undeniable sports figures. Who with this single act, used it as the platform for the creation of the Lew Hubbard Giants. This was the era of the “Great White Hope”, James J. Jeffries, and the man who would defeat him, Jack Johnson.

Sparing in front of a huge crowd with Commonwealth (British Empire) Heavyweight champion of the World, Tommy Burns, gave Hubbard community credibility.

***Lew Hubbard-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, October 15, 1910
Morning Oregonian – October 15, 1910

Deemed “The Fight Of The Century” by every newspaper in America, the Jeffries vs. Johnson battle royale would be considered the ultimate boxing event in the world, because boxing, or fisticuffs was at the time considered “the sport of kings”. Betting on this particular fight set the tone for the nation, especially where race relations and money in boxing were concerned. This was true, even in Portland, where events were smaller, but a constant source of revenue.

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Morning Oregonian – July 4, 1910

Between the years 1910 and 1922, the Lew Hubbard Giants played baseball, respectively off and on, as a form of community ‘entertainment’, until 1914 when they actually got serious about league play and winning. In the beginning, they were limited in both skills and popularity. Yet, their games were a very important form of entertainment, for the rather small African American population in Oregon, eking out a meager living in Portland or rural areas, where there were few jobs for black people that could be accessed.

Oregon City enterprise. (Oregon City, Or.) 1891-194?, July 15, 1910
Oregon City Enterprise – July 15, 1910

Early in Oregon’s history,  Black Exclusion Law had set a tone for how Oregon would operate in relation to African American residents for over a century, — until February 24, 1959, when Oregon finally ratified the 15th Amendment. This predetermined societal attitudes about African Americans living in Oregon, predated the Civil War, when Oregon was still only a territory of the United States. This racial divide carried forward from 1844 on into the turn of the 20th century.

Old Town – Chinatown was a necessary component of Portland’s seedier activity, where men folk could blow off steam; illegally in some cases. Places like the Star Theater, where men could go and watch silent movies or witness burlesque shows, were a part of Old Town’s charm and scandalous behavior.

Star Theater -1911

When the Chicago American Giants traveled to Oregon in April of 1914, to play against rural teams, like the one in Medford, its not quite certain what Rube Foster’s expectations of a reception would be, — but starving to death was probably the last thing on his mind. Outside of Old Town – Chinatown, African Americans were sparse, and in some cases, almost nonexistent. The more rural the area was, the more chance a African American would encounter blatant, overt racism. This was not unusual, because Corvallis, Oregon, — home of Oregon State University, had once been a Confederate stronghold during the Civil War, when it was still called ‘Marysville‘.

By the 1920’s, Medford, Oregon would become the first Ku Klux Klan stronghold in Oregon, built on the concept of “One-Hundred Per Cent Americanism“. Also, between 1912 and 1916, a few of the Lew Hubbard Giants played for the Oakland Giants, Lynne-Stanley Giants and the Oak Leafs. The Oregon and California Express AKA the “Shasta Limited” rail route kept them connected, as many of them were also Pullman Porters. The ‘Shasta Limited’ also became the name of another African American baseball team; one that was well earned in all respects.

Claude Orpheus Couver, H. Smith, and Jimmy Claxton were among the three known to have ventured to the Bay Area.

H. Smith – 1912 Oakland Giants

H. Smith – 1914 Lew Hubbard Giants

Comedy Keeps This Team On Toes-O.T.-4-16-1916-pg. 41
Oakland Tribune – April 12, 1916

Claxton, as the story goes, was a 1914 and 1915 favorite of the Lew Hubbard Giants, and a tremendous drawing card. Between Claxton, and second baseman, Hugh Harper, the Lew Hubbard Giants were an up and comer in the Bank League.

The Oregon daily journal., April 12, 1914, Page 23, Image 23
The Oregon Daily Journal – April 12, 1914

The Sunday Oregonian-September 6-1914
The Sunday Oregonian-September 6, 1914

The Oregon daily journal., June 14, 1914, Page 20, Image 20
The Oregon Daily Journal – June 14, 1914

Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, March 09, 1915
Morning Oregonian -March 9, 1915

In August of 1913, the land holdings in the name of Ivo Bligh, 8th Earl of Darnley, came under heavy scrutiny of the Portland Vice Commission, Although his name was never mentioned in the newspapers, Bligh’s legacy was well known all over the world. It seemed the world renowned cricketeer, was the owner of large swaths of land and buildings in the worse part of Portland. This Lord of  the Slums, Ivo Bligh, was best known for receiving “The Ashes” urn by a group of Melbourne women from Australia symbolizing “the ashes of English cricket”, where English cricket had once died — but Bligh an Co. took the ashes back to England, after defeating Australia in the Test series. The story of retrieving ‘the Urn’ is legendary, where to this day, Bligh’s feat is remembered in poem and song.

****John H. Wilson- Noble May Be Sued--326 Couch Street Ownership-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, Aug. 26, 1913-i
****John H. Wilson- Noble May Be Sued--326 Couch Street Ownership-Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, Aug. 26, 1913-ii
Morning Oregonian -Aug. 26, 1913

English Cricket Team of 1882

The Ashes”  urn of Cricket – 1882

The Ashes” song “Who’s On The Cricket Field” -1883

It’s not certain whether Bligh had any interest vested in baseball or boxing. It is certain that he had a vested interest in gambling and prostitution, as an absentee slum lord, who provided places of operation for these illicit occupations. There was no question as to his investments and the liquidation of his properties by the Wilder Bros. in 1920, years after the Tin Plate Ordinance took effect in the North End. It became more difficult to make money in these areas, as the public turned against the income streams that built early Portland from the ground up.

***Tin Plate Ordinance-Dago Rosie at 328 Couch-The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, August 10, 1913
The Sunday Oregonian – August 10, 1913

***English Estate Liquidation-Wilder Bros.-The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, February 08, 1920
The Sunday Oregonian – February 8, 1920

As the Tin Plate Ordinance rooted itself in Portland’ underbelly, Hubbard turned to more legitimate sources of income.  In 1917, Fred J. McClear and Lew Hubbard became business partners in a dance school, and Hubbard put together a traveling jazz band, to play at functions — so their students could utilize the new found skills on the dance floor.

McClear’s main gig was a porter at Waldo BoglesGolden West Hotel Barbershop’, which specialized in the art of grooming with, “Physionomical Hairdressers, Facial Operators, Crainum Manipulators, and Capillary Abridgers and Skeemotis Operators“. How one sold one’s craft, … is how one was perceived by one’s clientele, — and by the world at large. A haircut, with a shave, or a scalp massage, or deep tissue massage, etc., just didn’t cut it in the 1900’s. This involved not just ‘good looks’, but defined one’s character as well.

It was something the well groomed man could not ignore.

The sales pitch was everything.

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Eastern Clackamas News – November 15, 1917

The Lew Hubbard Giants story is a complex one, where the club itself played in an era and area of the nation, — at a time when documentation of their involvement and exploits as purveyors of baseball, and the “Artistic Exponents Of The Great National Pastime” — as stated by their own words, — were limited to a blurbs here and there, in the sports section of Oregon’s local newspapers. Their story is so much larger than a ‘single member of the team’, whose image nets auction premium prices for a once lost and mow found Zeenut card. Sometimes, their story was less than flattering, and most times it was racially charged and virulently humiliating. Yet, their presence in the sport of baseball allowed others to take that trip out West, to Oregon’s ‘unwelcome territory’. The Lew Hubbard Giants connection to the Negro Leagues steps far beyond baseball, becoming a source for social camaraderie and fellowship among men of their day– as well as a safety net for those who dared brave barnstorming trips across the nation, for untold adventures in early Oregon.

Norman O. Houston: Lost and Found

Norman O. Houston, pictured at far right, with his teammates from the Shasta Giants baseball team
1912 Oakland Giants — In uniform– Top Row: Left to right: bench sitting: (1) Chet Bost, (2) Maisona, (3) H.Smith, (4)unknown, (5) Nelson Watson; Manager, (6)Durgan, (7) Richardson, (8) White, (9) Norman O. Houston — Bottom: Left to right: ground sitting: (10) Herb Clarke, (11) Hilary “Bullet” Meaddows (UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library)

This photograph was located deep in the archives of the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance collection. It was an odd place to find a flawless image of the 1912 Oakland Giants. Access to such images, that are over 100 years old, of African American baseball teams, are very rare — and they are usually in very poor condition. Upon closer inspection, Norman O. Houston can been seen sitting to the far right in the top row.

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Norman O. Houston

This Dead Ball era photo is one of a few that shows the Oakland Giants in their home uniforms, taken at the State League Park, which was once located at Grove Street and Fifty-Seventh Street, behind Idora Park. Today, it is where Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute sits, behind Dover Park, in the Bushrod neighborhood of North Oakland.

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San Francisco Call – February 27, 1909

Idora Park Oakland 1910
Idora Park – Oakland Public Library, 1910

The Freeeman-Hilary Meaddows 5-25-1912
The Freeeman – May, 25, 1912

From his humble beginnings, Houston was destined for greatness. Houston was born in San Jose, California to Oliver and Lillian Houston, and lived part of his childhood in the Lower Bottoms of West Oakland. The larger part of his youth was spent in the Brooklyn Township of Alameda county, which is now considered Oakland. His father, Oliver, was a Pullman Porter, and also worked as a waiter at the Hotel Vendome. The story goes, in Houston’s own words, that he was the “godson” of the Sparkling wine baron and “Champagne King of California”, Paul Masson, based on Masson’s relationship with Houston’s father.

Brooklyn Alameda County
Map of Oakland and Brooklyn – 1885

Hotel Vedome San Jose
Hotel Vendome – San Jose

After graduating from Oakland Technical High School, Huston went on to study Business Administration U.C. Berkeley. While attending U.C. Berkeley, Houston became one of the key outfielders for a string of African American baseball teams that left a Bay Area legacy, which led up to the founding of the West Coast Baseball Association. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Oakland Giants were not the first African American baseball team to step foot on the diamonds of the East Bay, West Bay, and Central Valley;  but historically, they were the most recognizable local African American team, and most widely accepted, that paved the way for other African American teams to follow.

Under the management of Nelson Watson, who gathered the best players in the East Bay, the Oakland Giants became a formidable team, that traveled throughout Northern California, with games scheduled through Spalding.

Dutch Ruether-Mill Valley Record, Volume 14, Number 37, 4 October 1912
Mill Valley Record – October 4, 1912

Dutch Ruether-Marin Journal, Volume 50, Number 41, 10 October 1912
Marin Journal – October 10, 1912

At the age of 19, playing for the Oakland Giants, Huston faced Walter “Dutch” Ruether in the batter’s box. “Dutch” was one month older than Houston, and born in Alameda, California, but spent his life in the West Bay. Ruether went on to play ten years of professional baseball, in both the National and American leagues. It was not uncommon, at that time, for an African American baseball team to play the foil to their opponents; the team to beat above all other teams, during the early part of the 20th Century. These type of race based contest created the largest gates, and were advertised accordingly. More often than not, winning or losing a game decided one’s fate, when it came to the return trip home — as well as an extended invitation to return to play another day.

As the Oakland Giants morphed into the Lynne-Stanley Giants, under the leadership of Chet Bost, winning became a way of staying in the public eye. Huston played outfield for Bost and Lynne Stanley from 1913 to 1914. The year 1915 remains a mystery, and the disappearance of the Lynne-Stanley Giants for one year ushered in their 1916 return as the Oak Leaf Club of Oakland, where Houston was once again seen playing the outfield with a large majority of the former Oakland Giants team.


Oakland Tribune-Oak Leafs-2-13-1916-pg.30
Oakland Tribune – February 13, 1916

At the age of 24, Houston was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War I, where he became a “Regimental Personnel Adjutant”.

Norman Oliver Houston United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918-ii
Norman Oliver Houston – World War I Draft Registration Card

Portrait of Norman O. Houston in his World War I uniform
Portrait of Lt. Norman O. Houston in his World War I uniform

After the war had ended, Huston gave baseball one more shot, returning to play with so many others he had played with before, with the addition of a few new team members, like Carlisle Perry and Jimmy Claxton. At the age of 27, this would be the last baseball team that Houston would play with.

Shasta Giants 1919-20
Shasta Limiteds – Left to Right Top Row: (1) Owner Tod Graham, (2) Jimmy Claxton, (3) Norman O. Houston, (4) Goldie Davis, (5) Carlisle Perry, (6) Gene Cooper, (7) Chet Bost, and the (8) Trainer Green. Left to Right Bottom Row: (8) Fisher, (9) Eddie Jackson, (10) Hilary “Bullet” Meaddows, (11) Billy Woods, (12) Brown, and (13) Vaughns.

Unlike most African American baseball players whose history fades into anonymity, this single photograph of the 1912 Oakland Giants gives us a larger picture of Norman O. Houston’s life, which may have never had been connected before now. Leaving baseball to younger men, Houston pursued on the journey of creating the largest African American owned and operated insurance brokerage in the western United States, along with his partners, William Nickerson Jr. and George A. Beavers Jr. His experience as a clerk for the Board of Fire Underwriters before serving during World War I, led him to leave the Bay Area and head to the boom town called “1920’s Los Angeles“.

By 1920, 15,579 African Americans lived in Los Angeles. Twenty years later the City of Angeles had a Black population of 63,774, more than Denver, Oakland, San Francisco, and Seattle combined.“[1]

Black Los Angeles” was a gold mine of opportunity for the young Houston.

The Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, once the largest black-owned insurance company in the western United States, represented more to policy holders than a mere insurance company. They provided African Americans with life insurance, retirement plans, savings bonds, annuities and mortgages when white-owned banks would not lend to them. In part, they are responsible for the expansion of African American growth in the West, based on their ability to both lend and insure African American owned businesses and properties.

Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company – UCLA Library – 1925

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California Eagle – 1925

From its earliest beginnings, the founders of Golden State Mutual and their executives, documented the Company’s history and African Americans in California making history, using every form of known media, — including photography, recorded sound, moving images and films, and an array of artwork. At one time, Golden State Mutual maintained one of most extensive and comprehensive African American artwork collections in the United States, which was eventually sold off in 2007, just prior to the Great Recession of 2008, and near the close of its final days in 2009, — after an eighty-four year run, focusing on the African American community.

Executives from the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company and Reverend Ralph Abernathy-1964
Norman O. Houston with Rev. Ralph Abernathy (UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library)

MLK and Houston-ii
Norman O. Houston with Martin Luther King Jr. (UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library)

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom Bradley, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Norman O. Houston-1969
Norman O. Houston with Tom Bradley and Jesse Jackson (UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library)

Congressman Andrew Young and Norman O HoustonCongressman Andrew Young and Norman O. Houston (UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library)

Jesse Owens visits the Home Office of the Golden State Mutual
Jesse Owens visits the Home Office of the Golden State Mutual – June 18 1935 (UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library)

Norman O. Houston and Joe Louis-1945
Norman O. Houston and Joe Louis – 1945 (UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library)

Lena Horne visits the Home Office of the Golden State Mutual Life
Lena Horne visits the Home Office of the Golden State Mutual – 1953 (UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library)

Portrait of Norman O. Houston-ii

The amount of people connected to Norman O. Houston is so vast that all of them cannot be covered here. The same can said for his partners, William Nickerson Jr. and George A. Beavers Jr.

Norman O. Houston Park
Norman O. Houston Park Dedication – (UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library)

We owe a debt of gratitude to those men who founded that company in the 1920s,” said Fergerson, who grew up in Watts. Golden State Mutual “was not only an insurance company. It was a social, political and historic institution that brought jobs and proper insurance to the black community.” [2]

Norman O. Huston Park-2

Neatly nestled on the edge of Baldwin Hills, is the Norman O. Houston Park, near Ladera Heights. The majority of people who gather there daily probably have no idea who Norman O. Huston was, or that he had a deep, endearing love of baseball; or that he was a native of Oakland, California. Houston rarely talked about his life and times in the world of baseball, or who he played with or against. Quiet, reserved and honorable, Norman O. Houston’s legacy of baseball lived on in every youth baseball team that the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company sponsored throughout its existence.

Personal Portrait of Norman O. Houston – KABC Radio 79 – April 30 1966

1) “On June 1, 1900, the first census of the 20th Century counted 2,131 Black Angelenos”, California African American Museum Staff writer, June 1, 2019

2) Lifsher, Marc:California regulators seize struggling insurer Golden State Mutual Life“, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 1, 2009






Oakland’s A-26 Boilermakers: World War II, Politics, Unions and Industrial Baseball in the Bay Area

Boilermakers A26 baseball team; [E.F. Joseph collection, Careth Reid; Sports]A-26 Boilermakers, “Bayview” (Raimondi) Park. June, 18, 1942. (Office of War Information photographer Photo by E.F.Joseph)

The story of the men and women that built the Liberty ships and Victory ships is seldom delved into, and it covers a lot of turf of West Coast history. History that requires a rather large area of usable land located near water, where smoke billowing factories were in close proximity to one another, pumping out steel and iron around the clock, leaving the residue of soot and the smell of industry in the air. This is one of history’s “Known unknowns“, based on scattered information and limited access to materials to flesh it out in its entirety, because “loose lips” never built ships. There were many former Negro League players that did not serve in the military during World War II, but not because they were not fit for duty. Some of them were part of the war effort that supplied the machinery for the war, which in some cases — they worked in the war materials industry long before the United States entered World War II.

Their faces are familiar among this group of men.

There are also many different sides to the stories that surround American society during World War II, that one might be compelled to explore the deeper meaning of an simple image, such as a picture — if you will, — and its origin and simplicity. Like this picture of the A-26 Boilermakers; taken twenty-one years before Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech was given during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, calling for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States. The original March on Washington Movement began in 1941, headed by A. Philip Randolph.

“Why Should We March”, March on Washington flier, 1941 – Library of Congress

Some images are are misinterpreted; some of them are yet to be explored; most them will never be revealed. The industrial baseball side of baseball is often left open ended, and many questions are left unanswered. In a rare find, photographs such as this one, share a much larger picture of American society, the role of the military industrial complex, and how African American baseball functioned before and during the war, both before and after America entered the war as a participant of the Free World vs. the Axis Power conflict — that was raging in Europe and the South Pacific, after that fateful day in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The majority of men pictured here were involved in the ship building industry years before America’s involvement World War II. They worked at different ship building facilities in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The “Ten Prohibited Subjects” were a way of life for everyone during World War II, so limited information about the A-26 Boilermakers and their movements in and around the San Francisco Bay Area is something that is acceptable and expected, under the circumstances that they lived through.

From Permanente/Kaiser Yard #1, Permanente/Kaiser Yard #2, Permanente/Kaiser Yard #3, Permanente/Kaiser Yard #4, Moore Dry Dock, Mare Island,and Marinship Corporation, they went where their skill sets were needed. Yet, the social dynamics of how the A-36 Boilermakers baseball team came into being reaches as far back as 1936, when the barnstorming St. Louis Blues were touring the Bay Area, and a few of them decidedly remained on the West Coast. Exploring an array of job opportunities that they couldn’t find  anywhere else in the United States at that time, based on the limitations of race and social status, some of these men forged a new team. From the break up of the St. Louis Blues, the California Blues evolved, created by Byron Speed Reilly, founder of the Berkeley Colored League, which became the Berkeley International League.

BG-Negro Ball Stars Plan Summer Play-5-27-1937
Berkeley Daily Gazette -May, 27, 1937

This story begins at Moore Dry Dock, founded in 1905 as Moore and Scott Iron Works in San Francisco. Shortly after the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, Moore and Scott Iron Works migrated its ship building operation to Oakland, California in 1907, and stationed itself near the inlet channel of the Oakland Estuary. It was strategically placed where the Central Pacific Railroad’s Oakland Long Wharf was once located, with access to railroads, and the Key System cars that connected the entire East Bay by trolley, and access to San Francisco by Key System ferry.

1885 map of Oakland and the CPRR's Long Wharf
1885 map of Oakland and the CPRR’s Long Wharf

Key System Mole in 1933
Key System Mole in 1933

In 1917, Moore bought out Scott and renamed the business Moore Dry Dock in 1922. This centralized location was the beginning of a waterfront parcel of wetlands that would one day become known as Oakland Naval Supply Depot, also called, “The City Within The City“. Set on three-hundred and ninety acres of Oakland waterfront, terminating at the end of Adeline Street, where San Francisco Bay meets West Oakland, “The City Within The City” was at that time, the largest military installation in the entire world, which had its own police force, fire department, banks, stores, and baseball teams.


Moore-Scott shipyard in foreground
Moore Dry Dock  Company – 1940

Today, “The City Within The City”, is known as Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, an off-the-beaten-path spot where families enjoy picnics, look at the Bay, or enjoy an outdoor concert. Less than four mile from “The City Within The City” was Oakland’s Japantown. Oakland had one of the largest Japanese populations in the United States, along with Los Angeles, San Jose, Sacramento, Berkeley and San Francisco. The Japanese community on the edge of Oakland’s Chinatown, has existed in this waterfront location since the 1880’s, which was mixed with African Americans, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Greeks, and Portuguese, that made up this Downtown Oakland neighbor, just North of Jack London Square.

When this Dorothea Lange photograph is seen for the first time, of Tatsuro Masuda’s ‘commissioned sign’ stating “I AM AN AMERICAN”, unfurled and hung the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked by Imperial Japan, and placed in front of his storefront “The Wanto Co.”, — the reality of such a bold statement gives one a true sense between the dichotomy of being of Japanese American descent at the beginning of World War II, and how quickly the environment that you live in can change overnight. Between Oakland and Berkeley alone, more than 3,100 Japanese Americans were incarcerated, and close to 200 businesses were closed overnight. The Wanto Co, was located on 8th and Franklin streets in heart of Downtown Oakland, as were many Japanese businesses that were in close proximity of “The City Within The City“.

Oakland, Calif., Mar. 1942. A large sign reading "I am an American" placed in the window of a store

The Wartime Civil Control Administration Control Station, located at 530 Eighteenth Street, was one of 97 Wartime Civil Control Administration Control Stations in California. The Control Center located at 1117 Oak Street is now the Alameda County Law Library, and the one located at 530 Eighteenth Street is the Oakland School For the Arts. The expulsion of Japanese Americans that lived on the coastline of California, especially those that lived near military installations, was a rapid, expedient removal process, with little or no time to sell one’s property.

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Berkeley Daily Gazette - Mar 3, 1942-iii
Berkeley Daily Gazette - Mar 3, 1942-iv

Wartime Control Administration Station - Oakland - LocalWiki

A restructuring of racial and pseudo-racial groups took place in the Bay Area, as well as a very large influx of Dust Bowl migrants making their way to the shipyards of the West Coast in search of a new way of life and gainful, steady employment. Neighborhoods that had once contained an accepted racial mixture of people soon became overtly segregated; not only by race, but also by socioeconomic class. The war effort brought more than just employment for everyone involved. It also brought along with it, a new social structure which uprooted long standing communities along the coast of California. One group of Americans entering the West for the first time were called “Dust Bowl Refugees“, while another group of Americans exiting the coast after living there for decades were called “Enemy Aliens“. Those that were not considered belonging in either group were placed in a precarious situation, figuring out how they would fit into this newly created wartime social structure.

The African American communities of the San Francisco Bay Area were caught in the middle between the incarceration of Japanese American families that they had lived in peace with for decades — and these recent arrivals; America’s newcomers to the West. They were trekking to a place that was settled long before their arrival, bringing with them a ‘Manifest Destiny’ attitude in tow. These new arrivals, who when presented with any opportunity to displace native Californians, would have replaced California born African Americans in a heartbeat, based on their antiquated Great Plains ideals and Southern values that they brought with them. To these Great Plains transplants, racial superiority meant everything, and was based solely on one’s skin color as an “all-or-nothing” proposition. During this period in history, their middle America experience with West Coast African Americans was based on the ‘outdated standard’ of living that had once prevailed in the United States.

A large number of Japanese owned stores, markets and businesses that served the African American community during the 1940’s segregated period in the West, were shuttered, never to reopen. This also created problems for Oakland and Berkeley’s local residents, who relied on these Japanese owned businesses for their shopping needs, in the West Coast segregated society that is rarely spoken of.


Berkeley to West Oakland Japanese Businesses Pre-WWII
Emeryville to West Oakland Japanese American Owned Businesses – 1940

Berkeley Japanese Businesses Pre-WWII
Berkeley to Emeryville Japanese American Owned Businesses – 1940

The tension created by this forced wartime migration of racially opposed groups, relocating to a centralized area that was known for its racial neutrality for the most part — began to show a marked change in daily life. These never before seen confrontations weren’t simply caused by an increase of a racially dichotomous population. Social gains that had been made by the African American communities in the Bay Area since the 1800’s began to rapidly dissolve, based solely on incoming xenophobic attitudes nurtured by newcomers unfamiliar with the ways of urban environment in America. In truth, the Civil Rights movement began before America’s involvement in World War II with the original March on Washington Movement, which prompted President Roosevelt to sign Executive Order 8802, testing this new anti-discrimination policy to its limits during World War II.

The main factor for a steady uptick and acceleration of racism, was primarily driven by the economic migration patterns of African Americans from the North and South, and similar migration patterns of the “Okies” and “Arkies” from the plains states to the West Coast. From the the very beginning of World War II, vast financial opportunities presented themselves for those who needed and wanted to work in the war industrial complex, which offered every man and woman three shift around the clock, which immediately began after December 7, 1941. This quick, and poorly planned hastening of manpower to fuel the war industry was a phenomenal undertaking, which made no room for the analysis of required housing needs of these wartime migrants, or social inclusion for those that showed up to support the war effort. Racism increased exponentially with this rapid migration of millions, and bigotry and prejudice was also a byproduct of a need for mass production to occur, as a rapid response to rebuild the destroyed American naval power.

San Pedro News Pilot, Volume 15, Number 176, 26 September 1942
San Pedro News Pilot — September 26, 1942

The war had also caused massive labor shortages in other industries, while this new, incoming multi-ethnic labor force threatened the long standing tradition of “white-only” shipyard metal trades workers — and “white-only” metal trades union membership.

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The Corps of Engineers – Troops and Equipment, Volume 6, page 541

San Pedro News Pilot, Volume 15, Number 97, 26 June 1942
San Pedro News Pilot,  June 26, 1942

San Pedro News Pilot, Volume 16, Number 214, 10 November 1943
San Pedro News Pilot, November 10, 1943

Between 1940 t0 1944, the African American population on the West Coast increased by 113%!

In the locations of Portland-Vancouver and the San Francisco Bay Area, the African American population increased by 437% and 227%, respectively, thereby shrinking the already limited and segregated areas that African Americans had lived in for decades on the West Coast. Vanport, Oregon and Richmond, California were once military industrial boom towns during World War II, where Kaiser ship yards dominated the war time employment needs of the nation, and grew in population faster than housing accommodations for this new working class could be provided. Trailers and rode side shanties were not an uncommon sight to see along the roadways and empty lots in California wartime boom towns.

The War Manpower Commission was set up in 1942 to ensure a steady flow of able-bodied workers to meet the needs of the Dept. of War, the War Production Board, and the Labor Production Division of the War Production Board. At the same time, maintaining enough available draftees for the war in Europe, Africa and the Pacific, and workers for agriculture labor, and clerical workers for the United States Civil Service Commission was also a wartime imperative. The often seen images and photographs of World War II, gives one the impression that there was overall unified solidarity among the races, that played on the average American’s psyche, fostering a particularly strong sense of stoicism and reverence when it came to race relations within the work place. The undercurrent of those race relations were somewhat different.

Oakland Tribune Paul Robeson singing the “Star Spangled Banner”, Moore Dry Dock, September 21, 1942. (Oakland Tribune Collection – Gift of ANG Newspapers)

Jazz singer Lena Horne christened liberty ship at Kaiser Shipyard
Jazz singer Lena Horne, christened liberty ship, SS George Washington, at Kaiser Shipyard, May 7, 1943 (Office of War Information photographer Photo by E.F.Joseph)

The Fair Employment Practice Committee, created in 1941 to execute Executive Order 8802, banned discriminatory employment practices by Federal agencies, and employers who contracted out work for the Federal government, and this included all unions and companies connected and engaged in wartime-related works. The executive order also established the Fair Employment Practices Commission to enforce this new policy.”. The Federal Government ability to end racial discrimination in the workplace was an uphill battle. The overall effect sometimes led to violence, as it did in Mobile,Alabama at the
Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Company, when 4,000 angry white employees attacked every African American connected with the shipyard they could find, after 12 African Americans were promoted to equal positions as their white counterparts.

When the A-26 Boilermakers’ donned their uniforms
for the first time in the summer of 1942, and scheduled games against their opponents, there was little doubt that the objective was more than baseball.

Kaiser Stands Firm 1942

Telegrams related to labor issue involving black workers in PortWestern Union Telegram, from John. P. Frey to Henry Kaiser concerning demotions of African American shipyard worker- October 22, 1942

San Bernardino Sun, Volume 49, 22 October 1942
San Bernardino Sun – October 22, 1942

Mill Valley Record, Volume XLVI, Number 98, 15 December 1942-i
Mill Valley Record, Volume XLVI, Number 98, 15 December 1942-iii
Mill Valley Record, Volume XLVI, Number 98, 15 December 1942-ii
Mill Valley Record – December 15, 1942

Organized Labor, Volume 44, Number 34, 21 August 1943
Organized Labor – August 21, 943.

San Pedro News Pilot, Volume 16, Number 229, 27 November 1943
San Pedro News Pilot – November 27, 1943

Negro Boiiermaker Strike November 20, 1943-iii-Marin Shipyards
Negro Boilermaker Strike – Auxiliary Union Leaders meet before strike, November 20, 1943 –Marinship Corporation – Marin Shipyards. (UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library)

Negro Boiiermaker Strike November 20, 1943-ii-Marin Shipyards
Negro Boilermaker Strike – Auxiliary Union Leader speaks to striking workers, November 20, 1943 –Marinship Corporation – Marin Shipyards. (UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library)

Negro Boiiermaker Strike November 20, 1943 -Marin Shipyards
Negro Boilermaker Strike, November 20, 1943 –Marinship Corporation – Marin Shipyards. (UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library)

Mill Valley Record, Volume XLV, Number 59, 2 December 1943
Mill Valley Record – December 2, 1943

Sausalito News, Volume 58, Number 48, 2 December 1943
Sausalito News – December 2, 1943

Mill Valley Record, Volume XLVI, Number 8, 24 February 1944
Mill Valley Record – February 24, 1944

Sausalito News, Volume 60, Number 5, 1 February 1945
Sausalito News – February 1, 1945

The West Coast was never immune to racial discrimination when it came to public life or the workplace, and this is true especially where employment was concerned. 

The A-26 Boilermakers’ uniforms were a form of World War II “social media“, that kept the unrepresented African American shipyard workers in the public eye, using the sports page as a means to send political message. This ‘fashion as a form of protest’ strategy, or ‘dressing for dissent’, is a technique of political resistance or political activism, used in campaigns that address matters of much needed social reform. The A-26 Boilermakers’ uniforms made a undeniable statement of existence, —  as the sport of baseball is a reflection of American culture in real time. What they chose to wear, what they named their team, what they called themselves, was a measured response to their daily lives that included “separate but equal”, — which was separate and very far from equal.  

With their ever-present opponents at the “The City Within The City”, the Moore Dry Dock team, where white Boilermakers’ union counterparts lived and worked on a daily basis an acknowledgement of the A-26 Boilermakers’ existence was important. The A-26 Boilermakers’ were in some part responsible for initiation of the California Supreme Court case, James v. Marinship, in 1944. This landmark decision was an early test case for the ‘yet to become’ Supreme Court Judge Thurgood Marshall‘s skill set as a Civil Rights attorney for the N.A.A.C.P., which gave teeth to Brown v. The Board of Education.

The court battle between Marinship supported by the Local 6 versus Joseph James and the A-41 “auxiliary” union would last a year.

The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders and Helpers of America were uncooperative when it came to the needs of the War Manpower Commission, and refused to comply with with Executive Order 8802, continuing the practice of segregation in the workplace under the auspices that these unions, and their locals, were “closed shop” white-only unions  Even though “white-only” unions operated outside of compliance with the needs of the nation to end World War II quickly, segregation persevered and ignored Executive Order 8802 in its entirety. African Americans involved in the war effort’s ship building projects were required to make their own “auxiliary” unions and union locals — designated by an “A“. This action was only feasible with the permission of their ‘parent’ locals, where white union members and leaders made all the decisions for the disenfranchised African Americans shipyard workers.

A-26 were Moore Dry Dock workers in Oakland, A-36 were Kaiser Shipyards workers in Richmond, and A-33 and A-41 were Shipfitters in the Marinship Corporation in Sausalito. These “auxiliary” unions were controlled by their ‘parent’ locals, Local 9, Local 39, and Local 681 in Oakland, and Local 513 in Richmond. Nearly 20% of the workforce at Moore Dry Dock during World War II were African Americans, but they were also largely unrepresented in matters of labor and management. This particular baseball team, the A-26 Boilermakers, represented all African American wartime industry workers on the West Coast, and across the nation as well, in their struggle for union representation and equality under the law — as men and women who were classified as “union members” for all intents and purposes, but denied union representation and union benefits.

Before Rosa Parks refused to get up and relinquish her seat in the “colored section” to a white passenger, and move to the back of the bus, before John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their black leather gloved clad fist at the 1968 Olympics and gave the Black Power salute, and long before Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe took a knee against police brutality — the A-26 Boilermakers,as a team‘, chose their moniker carefully, knowing full well that any articles written about them, ‘as a team‘, would draw attention to the plight of the African Americans who worked in the defense industry during World War II, and keep it before the public. Jim Crow was the follow up to Executive Order 8802. Today, it would be difficult to even imagine a person working in a union job, and doing so — required to pay full union dues, while having no voting power or representation, nowhere to air or arbitrate their grievances, required to accept reduced insurance coverage, — and were segregated from the main body of union members; but during World War II, segregation was not just limited to public spaces like diners, stores, theaters and buses.

OT-Great Negro Stars To Play-822-1942-i
OT-Great Negro Stars To Play-822-1942-ii
Oakland Tribune -August 22, 1942

The A-26 Boilermakers were comprised of the following members:

  1) Theodore “Teddy” Gabe – Catcher
  2) Claude Brown – First Base
  3) Eddie Burke – Second Base
  4) Les Saunders – Short Stop
  5) Willie “Tat” Mays – Pitcher/Third Base
  6) Al Plowers – Center Field
  7) Rowland “Monk” Ewing – Second Base/Infield
  8) Homer Holloway – Pitcher/Catcher/Outfield
  9) Roy Edmonson – Right Field
10) Earl (“Minneweather”) Meneweather – Left Field
11) TimothyMike” “Showboat” Berry – Pitcher
12) “Wee Willie” Jones – Pitcher

Ernest (“Ernie”) R. Raimondi and Albert (“Al”) Raimondi were headliners for the Moore Dry Dock team line up. Both brothers had spent significant time in the Pacific Coast League, and were considered some of the best the league had to offer. These baseball series between the he Moore Dry Dock team and the A-26 Boilermakers were representative of how integrated baseball had developed over the last three decades in the San Francisco Bay Area, prior to World War II. These events would take place at Bayview Park or the Pacific Coast League’s Oaks Park in Emeryville. 

OT-Great Negro Stars To Play-822-1942-iii
Oakland Tribune -August 22, 1942

Home field for the A-26 Boilermakers was Bayview Park, opened to the public in 1910 in West Oakland, which eventually became Raimondi Park in 1947, in honor of Ernie Raimondi.

Herrick Iron Works can be seen in the background. They were a major supply source for steel for making Victory and Liberty ships in the Bay Area.

Boilermakers A26 baseball team; [E.F. Joseph collection, Careth Reid; Sports]
A-26 Boilermakers‘ Pitcher, Timothy “Mike” “Showboat” Berry, “Bayview” (Raimondi) Park. June, 18, 1942. (Office of War Information photographer Photo by E.F.Joseph)

In his early years, Timothy “Mike” “Showboat” Berry, also known as “Cannonball” Berry, played for the Van Dyke Colored House of David. Eventually moving to the West, Berry was a individual who stayed mobile, even as a youth who was born in Kansas City.  He played for the St. Louis Stars, Atlanta Black Crackers, California Eagles, Cincinnati Crescents, San Francisco Sea Lions, California Tigers,
Kansas City Monarchs.

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TimothyMike” “Showboat” Berry – WWII Draft Registration


California Eagles
California EaglesTimothyMike” “Showboat” Berry -1940

Honolulu Star-Bulletin-05 Oct 1946,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin – Oct 5, 1946

Cincinnati Crescents 1946-ii
Cincinnati Crescents 1946 (touring team)

Cincinnati Crescents 1946-iii
Cincinnati Crescents – TimothyMike” “Show Boat” Berry – 1946

Boilermakers A26 baseball team; [E.F. Joseph collection, Careth Reid; Sports]
A-26 Boilermakers‘ Pitcher/Third Base, Willie “Tat” Mays, “Bayview” (Raimondi) Park. June, 18, 1942. (Office of War Information photographer Photo by E.F.Joseph)

Willie “Tat” Mays
A-26 Boilermakers‘ Pitcher/Third Base, Willie “Tat” Mays , “Bayview” (Raimondi) Park. June, 18, 1942. (Office of War Information photographer Photo by E.F.Joseph)

The life of Willie “Tat” Mays is better explained in Gary Ashwill’s post, “
Willie Mays, 1946 San Francisco Sea Lions“, at his blog Agate Type.

Boilermakers A26 baseball team; [E.F. Joseph collection, Careth Reid; Sports]
A-26 Boilermakers‘ Catcher, Theodore “Teddy” Gabe, “Bayview” (Raimondi) Park. June, 18, 1942. (Office of War Information photographer Photo by E.F.Joseph)

Theodore “Teddy” Gabe led a very interesting life. It began in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he grew up in a single parent home with his mother, Beulah, as a descendant of the Creek Freedmen of the Muscogee Creek, until he was removed by the state and sent to live in the Industrial Institute for the Deaf  Blind and Orphans of the Colored Race, in Taft, Oklahoma. Gabe was actually from Oklahoma, but could never be considered an “Okie” under the rules of race and social class during World War II. His skin color dictated his social status.

Ted Edward Gabe-Oklahoma, School Records, 1895-1936 Muskogee
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Gabe was an educated man, who spent time at both the University of Washington and U.C. Berkeley, but in 1940, Gabe spent some time as a resident at San Quentin as prisoner #64693. After his release, he went to work at the Kaiser shipyards.

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Theodore “Teddy” Edward Gabe – WWII Draft Registration

After the war ended, Gabe went on to play with the Oakland Larks and San Diego Tigers. He finished his degree at U.C Berkeley and went on to become a photographer apprentice with National Geographic.

Wee Willie Jones
A-26 Boilermakers‘ Pitcher, “Wee Willie” Jones, “Bayview” (Raimondi) Park. June, 18, 1942. (Office of War Information photographer Photo by E.F.Joseph)

It has been said that “Wee Willie” Jones once played for the Zulu Cannibal Giants and the Van Dyke House of David, but the details are sketchy at best. Wee Willie Jones also went by the moniker “Sad Sam” Jones. Jones last stop was with the Oakland Larks, which ended his baseball career on an up note.

WCBA Official Score Card-Larks vs. Sea Lions
West Coast Baseball Association program“Wee Willie” Jones -1946

Homer Hollaway
A-26 Boilermakers‘ Pitcher/Catcher/Outfield, Homer Holloway, “Bayview” (Raimondi) Park. June, 18, 1942. (Office of War Information photographer Photo by E.F.Joseph)

Homer Holloway was once played ball for the St. Louis Blues. A transplant from Jackson, Mississippi, Holloway barnstormed in his early years with the Blues, and probably decided to stay in the West for reasons pertaining to steady employment. He played for the California Eagles, during their heyday as the Oakland Tribune Tournament Champions of 1940, where he was team mates with Mike “Show Boat” Berry and Claude Brown.

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St. Louis BluesHomer Holloway -1936

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Oakland Tribune – August 27, 1940

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Homer Holloway – WWII Draft Registration

Earl (“Minneweather”) Meneweather– Left Fielder for the A-26 Boilermakers, was a professional football player, spent two years playing halfback for the San Francisco Packers of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League who was a graduate of  Humbolt State University. He was also a football and basketball star.

Earl (“Minneweather”) Meneweather was many things throughout his entire life.

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A-26 Boilermakers’ Left Field, Earl (“Minneweather”) Meneweather, “Bayview” (Raimondi) Park. June, 18, 1942. (Office of War Information photographer Photo by E.F.Joseph)

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Earl (“Minneweather”) Meneweather – Humbolt State University HOF

San Bernardino Sun, Volume 48, 2 September 1942
San Bernardino Sun – September 2, 1942

The A-26 Boilermakers were the forerunners in the passive resistance protest movements that would sweep America after Word War II, which became commonplace in the Civil Rights movements of the 1960’s. They let their skills at the shipyards and on the baseball field speak to what equality was supposed to represent when “All Men Are Created Equal” was the standard America was founded on.

“Heroes don’t always wear capes, …”
Sometimes they wear baseball uniforms.


Those Eastside Girls: African American Women’s Baseball

1928-Young Women of Twelfth Street “Colored Branch” of the YWCA

Early Women’s baseball has ostensibly been earmarked with the ‘beginning of league play between women’ with the founding of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. But before there was “A League Of Their Own“, there was another unheard of league that played at White Sox Field in South Central Los Angeles, whenever the opportunity was presented to them. The league itself had no name, yet the teams were grounded in very competitive league play, and that league flourished between 1926  to 1928, right before the Great Depression would take a toll on the entire American population.

Twelfth Street “Colored Branch” of the YWCA

As reported weekly by Gladys Mathonican, for the California Eagle column called “Girletics“, the Y.W.C.A.’s Southern California Girl Reserves teams from all over Los Angeles gathered to play head-to-head, with much fan fair.

CE-Girletics-12-24-1926-i-H. Levette
California Eagle -December 24, 1926

Gladys was a young sports editor and the upcoming sidekick of Harry Levette, lead sports editor and entertainment reporter for the California Eagle. Levette was Southern California’s version of Northern California’s Byron “Speed” Reilly. When it came to sports and entertainment reporting, Levette, who was a very well known Associated Negro Press icon, had his hands full with covering professional and semi-professional sporting events and national entertainment highlights visiting in town, and those national items that came off the wire for the Associated Negro Press.

Gladys, who was young, intelligent and well spoken, took up the slack for Levette. She was also a well known singer in the Los Angeles area, and also a Girl Reserves athlete as well. The YWCA group that was created for reaching every race, creed, and color shortly after the end of World War I, was used to enhance societal spirituality and foster good health and moral upbringing of young American women.

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The Girl Reserves motto was as follows:

As A Girl Reserve: I will try to be…

Gracious In All Manner,
Impartial In All Judgment,
Ready For All Service,
Loyal To All Friends

Reaching Toward The Best,
Earnest In Purpose,
Seeing The Beautiful,
Eager For Knowledge,
Reverent For God,
Victorious Over Self,
Ever Dependable,
Sincere At All Times.

The study of African American women in baseball is limited in some aspects only to those women who participated in the Negro Leagues; like Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, Toni Stone, and Connie Morgan. But who proceeded them as role models? Were there roles models for them outside of men playing the sport of baseball? The facts show that women played organized baseball, in league type play, long before World War II and Philip K. Wrigley creation of the AAGPBL.

In 1913, at Eastlake Park, in the Booker T. Washington community, two teams of African American women picked up the bat and balled and played a baseball game against one another to raise money for the, African Methodist Episcopal Mission, which would eventually become the Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the city of Phoenix, Arizona.  Tanner Chapel is located directly across the street from Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Arizona Republican-Nov. 27-1913
The Arizona Republican-November,  27, 1913

The Eastside Girls neighborhood was nestled neatly between Central Avenue and Long Beach Blvd., and was the mecca of Black Los Angeles, in close proximity to the city of Vernon, which was formerly called the “Furlong Tract”. It was where black culture thrived in early Los Angeles. Central Avenue of course was the heartbeat for African American community and culture in Southern California, where black people from all over the United States migrated to, seeking opportunity and change, bringing with them a piece of their Southern roots.

The Dunbar Hotel and Lincoln Theater, would be centrally located in this burgeoning neighborhood as well as White Sox Park, which was expansive, and was Los Angeles’s predecessor in multicultural arts, entertainment, sports and cuisine, based totally on a segregated past that held people of color within a single location in Los Angeles county, during the era of Jim Crow.

CE-Dunbar Hotel Ad-4-24-1929
California Eagle -April 24, 1929

CE-Lincoln Theater-9-30-1927
California Eagle -September 30, 1927

Central Ave.-Ascot and 38th-Long Beach Ave.-ii
The Heart of Central Avenue of South Central Los Angeles – Exposition Park to the West, City of Vernon to the East.

Ross Snyder Park-1928-ii
White Sox Park next to Snyder-Ross Park – 38th and Compton

The structure of the Girl Reserves baseball teams were initiated as intramural contests between young middle school aged girls through young women approaching college age within their own YWCA branch. Each contest was supposed last for a short period of time in order to receive the completion requirements, as one of the items listed on Honors System roll. The women of Los Angeles took the Girl Reserves baseball to a different level of competitive sports within the ranks of the YWCA organization.

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Under the Honors List, section 1, subsection (C), number 45, listed of the “Outdoor Activities”, a Girl Reserves was to “Know the different positions on a baseball diamond and how to keep score.“. And (46), “Play on an organized team for four weeks.“. Daily exercises options included in, “EXERCISES FOR GIRL RESERVES AND OTHER TEENAGE GIRLS”, were batting and stretching movements to be performed twice daily, morning and night,  for ten minutes.

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The Girl Reserve Movement A Manual For Advisers – 1918

The Los Angeles area Girl Reserves movement was not indoor baseball. The home field for the Eastside Girls was Ross-Synder Park, which was located right next to White Sox Park, home of the California Winter League, which at that time existed in the same block of 38th Street and Compton Avenue. A lot of these young women more than likely witnessed the Philadelphia Royal Giants three years in a row, and were inspired by their awesome skills on the diamond.

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California Eagle -May 6, 1927

As for the integration of baseball aspects of the Girl Reserve league, they challenged and accepted all comers, very much like many games that took place at White Sox Park. The league was prominent enough to draw the attention of fight promoter Carlo Curtis, who owned and operated Main Street Athletic Club, and also promoted such fighters as Fidel LaBarba and Rocky Marciano.

Carlo Curis Main Street Gym
Carlo Curtis with Fidel LaBarba and Rocky Marciano at the Main Street Athletic Club

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CE-Eastside Girl Baseball Team Practing Hard 4-8-1927

California Eagle – April 8. 1927

Their notoriety was mentioned in newspapers as far away as Pennsylvania.

Pittsburg Courier***12th Street-PC-Eastside and other teams-1927

Pittsburgh PA Courier – Jan. 27, 1927

In the years that preceded the Great Depression, the Girl Reserves of Los Angeles county were a big draw in every community, but very little is known about their exploits so far as statistics go. Eastside Girls, Westside Girls, Carlos Curtis’s Girls, the Dodecagenians, the Golden Poppy Girls, the Pasadena Girls, the 12th Street Girls, the Japanese Girls, and Jessie Rayford’s Red Sox made up this league play, that held series that were often played in White Sox Park, in front of sell out crowds.

***CE-Rayfords Red Sox Play Eastside Girls Return Match At White Sox Park Aug 18 | 8-10-1928

California Eagle – August 10, 1928

Genevieve Hawkins (Eastside Girls), Otis “Babe” Wiggins (Eastside Girls), Jessie Rayford (Westside Girls), Quincella Nickerson (Dodecagenians), Jessie Mae Nickerson (Dodecagenians), were a few of the well noted players in the league, and were outstanding athletes in their own right, although most were known for other accomplishments or societal gossip. Otis “Babe” Wiggins was a prominent Southern California tennis star years before Althea Gibson would take African American women to international tennis fame, and Jessie Rayford was a world class track star of Olympic caliber before Wilma Rudolph. Most of these women played basketball as well, but baseball was what they were noted for excelling at.

The Nickerson sisters, Quincella and Jessie Mae, were the daughters of  William Nickerson Jr., founder an President of Golden State Mutual Insurance Company; the” largest black-owned insurance company in the West”.

Quincella is better known for her short lived, supposed ‘tryst’ with Jesse Owens. The story itself made no sense, other than the fact than Jesse was a national track star, staying in the dorms with some members of Sigma Chi frat house at U.S.C., which was about two miles from the heart of Central Avenue. Quincella introduced Jesse to the unfamiliar territory of Los Angeles, as one of Central Avenue’s famous and elite daughters. She was his escort when he was being introduced to Hollywood’s rich and famous, and their arranged companionship was more than likely at the request of her father.

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Jesse Owens and Quincella Nickerson – Los Angeles, July 2, 1935

When we talk about segregation and baseball, the tendency is to exclude the African American woman from this scenario, thereby excluding her importance as an athlete of historical representation, never quite certain of where her entry point into the world of sports began. The African American female was not merely a spectator of baseball, and other sports as well in those early years; she was also a vital participant that helped grow the sport to what it is today.  Those Eastside Girls remind us of how things that followed them, evolved into some of the greatest baseball ever played.






So Different Baseball Team- Pierce Giants of Oakland

Pierce Giants-Three Players-ii
1923 Pierce Giants of Oakland
: At Pierce Field, in Richmond California
(Left to Right): Charles Reid, Richards, Harold “Yellowhorse” Morris

Gerald Early is often quoted, stating that: “There are only three things that America will be remembered for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: The Constitution, Jazz music, and Baseball. These are the 3 most beautiful things this culture’s ever created.” Early jazz and baseball once had a symbiotic relationship; a musical relationship that no longer exist in today’s modern era.

And what we know about Steve Pierces Pierce Giants of Oakland is both unique and minimal. We know that they staked a claim on being the Colored Champions of Northern California. We know that the twenty-one year old Harold “Yellowhorse” Morris got his start there, under the tutelage of manager Chet Bost and owner Steve Pierce. We know that “Yellowhorse” Morris went on to be a starting pitcher for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1924, and held the same job for the Detroit Stars in 1925.

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1923 Pierce Giants of Oakland: Harold “Yellowhorse” Morris

We also know that Steve Pierce bought the Detroit Stars from Tenny Blount, after a successful run as the owner of the Pierce Giants of Oakland. These ‘known knowns‘ create the foundation for the unique and minimal tales of the Pierce Giants of Oakland legacy.

Pierce Giants-6-ii
1923 Pierce Giants of Oakland
: Chet Bost and Steve Pierce (owner)

When we take a look at jazz as an purist art form, we realize that it takes the most significant cultural elements of our society and communicates them in musical terms. Jazz is a rift on musical notes that are known, yet easily improvised on, once the style and rhythm is set in motion. Baseball and jazz are two very important and significant cultural elements that are specifically American in their design, and jazz is rooted in baseball, based on the word “jazz” all by itself. This is not a story about Benny Henderson and his famed “jazz ball” pitch, even though the concept of a pitch being motivated by sound is something in need of much more historical exploration.

From the beginning of the Dead Ball Era of 1901 to 1919, to the Live Ball Era of 1920 to 1941, jazz music and the word, “jazz” played a significant role in this beautifully structured game known as baseball. Yet, the paradox that jazz music supplied to baseball, was an integral part of the that crafted the ‘seeing’, ‘feeling’, and ‘hearing’ of a game that took place among spectators and players of that sport, both on and off the field. Rousing conversations about improvised moments on the field of play connected the average fan to the rising and falling of rhythms, beats and tempos, which included base on balls, a hot double plays, or swinging away and connecting the bat to ball for a home run driven out of the park.

No one can be exactly sure when the word “jazz” and baseball became synonymous with one another, even though some have theorized that it all began in 1912, with a pitcher named Benny Henderson, who threw a pitch called a “jazz ball“. If the truth be told, the word jazz was used for multiple sporting events during the Dead Ball era, from soccer to football, boxing, and of course — baseball as well.

Gunboat Smith vs. Sam Langford

San Francisco Call,  September 22, 1913

Dr. Leonard K. Hirshberg, of John Hopkins University once published an article in 1917 called,Rest And Quiet The Sure Cure Of What Is Called Jazz Disease“, and attributed his findings by correlating a poem by Vachel Lindsay called, The Congo: The Study Of The Negro Race“, that read like a Rudyard Kipling poem written by  Dr. John H. Van Evrie. He defined jazz as sort of a delirium or ecstasy of excitement, that was the result of too much action and not enough rest. Jazz in Hirshberg’s eyes — was a malady that was only curable through substantial rest, a plain diet, plenty of sleep, and living a better way of life.

He also laid the sole blame of said jazz disease on “the Negroes“, who had all sorts of ‘traditions’, ‘superstitions’, and ‘fireside folk stories’ about King Jazz and the Jazz Band. Hirchberg, who often took liberties with the truth whenever there was sawbuck involved, was seemingly an expert on so many subjects — that he was eventually found guilty of being the brains behind a $1,000,000 mail fraud scheme, and spent four years in an Atlanta prison.

By 1917, the word ‘jazz‘ was in full rotation, and the world of music as it was known then was completely redefined, moving away from the syncopation of  Ragtime towards Gut Bucket Blues.

Benny Henderson photo
The Sunday Oregonian., September 17, 1911

In truth, for all the ‘jazz’ that Henderson had on his wobbly curve ball, Benny was his own worse enemy. He was an binge-drinking alcoholic. He was often involved in drunk driving accidents on more than one occasion. He even ran his car into The Cabin, a road house saloon located at the corner Fell  and Stanyan streets, just outside Golden Gate Park in the Panhandle, in one of his drunken stupors while driving through San Francisco.  Another time, he ran his car into a street car at the corner of Kearny St. and Market, escaping injury himself, but his passengers were not so lucky. For all intents and purposes, Henderson should have never been behind the wheel.

Henderson in reality was a great pitcher and at the same time a contract jumper, who preferred playing in Cy Moering‘s outlawed California State League; but he was also a raging alcoholic, who probably never should have played for Portland’s PCL team. Not because he wasn’t good enough. Because he was good enough. Henderson had once vowed that as long as Moering had a league to play in, that he would continue to play for Moering no matter what the consequence were. The city of Portland, at the time of Henderson’s tenure with the Beavers, was a den on iniquity between the years 1908 and 1914. There was no way Henderson could have remained on the “water wagon”, as he had promised McCredie he would, because vice was one of Portland’s main selling points and one of its biggest draws as a city.

Good Twirler-Bad Driver

San Francisco Call,  August 13, 1912

Like clockwork, Benny Henderson went AWOL more than once from the Pacific Coast League.  But he also went AWOL from the California State League. Cy Moering was just more forgiving than J. Cal Ewing or Walter McCredie.  Henderson consistent drinking problem was much more unwavering than his ‘jazz ball’, or his ability to show up for training camp, or abide by his contract for the sake of his team for an entire season that he signed on for. The No Booze slash Water Wagon contract that McCredie had him sign had zero effect on Henderson’s alcoholic reality.

The Kearny Street accident better explains Henderson’s proneness to driving accidents, and how he came to call this wobbling pitch the jazz ball. This specific location is within walking distance of a place once known as “Terrific Street“, where West Coast Jazz was born. It was the left coast’s home to many of the original jazz greats like King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton. But the most significant patriarch of West Coast jazz was none other than Louis “Sid” LeProtti, who was Sid Purcell‘s and Sam King‘s top act at the So Different Cafe, located at 520 Pacific Street in North Beach area near Chinatown. “Sid” LeProtti was the most active jazz pianist on the Barbary Coast in its heyday, between 1907 and 1917. Purcell’s So Different Cafe was a hot spot for night life and over-the-top ‘entertainment’ that rivaled the likes of New York City, Chicago, and New Orleans when it came to high class but sometimes illegal and titillating raucous enjoyment.

Born the illegitimate son of Louis LeProtti, an immigrant dry goods salesman from Italy, and Amelia “Netty” Dangerfield, a seamstress from Oakland, California, “Sid” LeProtti grew up a biracial child abandoned by his birth father, learning the harsh realities of a segregated society early in life. Listening  to music and playing classical piano became his solace. Falling in love with the piano playing styles of “Blind Tom” Wiggins” and “John William “Blind” Boone“, “Sid” LeProtti trained himself in both a variation of classical piano and the music of the day; Ragtime. By the age of twenty-one, LeProtti had earned the top billing spot at Purcell’s So Different Cafe, which was in direct competition with the Red Mill, also known as the Moulin Rouge. You also had Spider Kelly’s Saloon and Dance Hall, The Thalia, Izzy Gomez’s Cafe, Parenti’s Saloon, The Midway, Griffin’s, and The Hippodrome, that had their paws in everything from taxi dancing to the key rackets.

Spider Kelly's
1915Spider Kelly’s Saloon and Dance Hall



1915- “Terrific Street” – Thalia’s, Spider Kelly’s, The Hippodrome, and The So Different Cafe on Pacific Street.

But it was here, on Terrific Steet— as seen in this 1914 video, in the So Different Cafe, the Texas Tommy dance craze was invented, and spread throughout the country like wildfire. This is the only known footage of the early Crescent Orchestra. The Texas Tommy was such popular dance that theater producers sent dancers West to learn the dance, and some of them like Al Jolson, hired dancers from the Barbary Coast to teach the Texas Tommy to their chorus lines for their stage productions back East.  These Barbary Coast saloons, also known as  “black and tans” clubs, catered to black and white patronage alike, and despite their limited number and size, were often frequented by the famous as well as the infamous of Bay Area society.

So Different Jazz Band-Texas Tommy
1914–Sid Purcell’s So Different Cafe, with “Sid” LeProtti and the ‘Crescent Orchestra’, which would eventually become the So Different Jazz Band.

In 1915, Sid LeProtti reorganized his Crescent Orchestra to become the So Different Jazz Band. From here, along with other details about Sid LeProtti’s time spent at Sid Purcell So Different Cafe in the heart of the Jackson Square, we can see how West Coast jazz was taking shape, ala leaning towards a New Orleans flavor. New Orleans was called Crescent City because the original town-the Vieux Carré, was built at a sharp bend in the Mississippi River. The fact that “Sid” LeProtti named his first band after ‘Crescent City’, also known as  New Orleans, points to what influenced his musical talents, even though they were steeped in West Coast African American culture.

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The Oakland Sunshine, March 20, 1915

Sid Le Protti's So Different Jazz Band-1915-1918
1915 — The So Different Jazz Band
(Left to Right): Clarence Williams, Benjamin Franklin “Reb” Spikes, Adam “Slocum” Mitchell, Louis “Sid” LeProtti, Gerald D. Wells, Peter Stanley.

At the turn of the 20th century, they referred to early jazz as ‘barbarous noise for a degenerative peoples’, because this was the new sound of African American culture, rising up during the first Great Migration, and it was being spread throughout the United States by way of railroad from Coast to Coast, courtesy of your local Pullman porters including Purcell and King. The Oakland Mole, or course was the terminus, or “end of the line” for all passengers headed West.

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe rail yards roundhouse was located in Richmond, California. Pierce Field was owned and operated by Steve Pierce, and the grandstand on the baseball grounds, once stood between Macdonald and Nevin Avenues just west of First Street, — and were located near Atchison Village Park where the St. John’s Apartment complex is located today. The Pierce Giants of Oakland were very well known throughout the entire state of California and barnstormed locally in the Bay Area, Sacramento and Napa regions, and well out of those regions, as far South as Los Angeles.

By 1917, jazz was well rooted in every day American culture, not only as a word, but as a relationship with those who listened to it for its entertainment value and expression of the unspoken trials and tribulations of being human, in a world on the brink of humanistic collapse. The world was at war with itself, and the tavern life offered an escape from the inevitability of a relatively short life span that left the average man dead by the age of 48.

From 1914 to 1917, the war in Europe raged on to what seemed to be no end in sight. “Sid” Leprotti’s So Different Jazz Band eventually left Sid Purcell’s So Different Cafe, but kept the band’s name in spite of their departure from Purcell’s. Preserved records on the life of “Sid” LeProtti’s  indicate that on his World War I Draft Registration, he and his jazz band were working at the Portola Louvre Restaurant, a much classier cafe in downtown San Francisco. Located at Powell and Market, the Portola would bring LeProtti even higher recognition in the world of music and social standing in the West Coast jazz community.

Portola Lourve

1915-Portola Lourve Restaurant

LeProtti was making jazz waves all over California, playing clubs all along the Coast, whenever he could get a paying gig. Baron Long’s Tavern, on 108th and and Central Avenue in Watts, was one of the places that “Sid” Leprotti worked continuously, along side a young dancer named Rudolph Valentino, the “tango pirate“, and his rowdy partner, Marjorie Tain. Long’s Tavern was a Los Angeles area based ‘black and tan’, opened by Long for the purpose of catering specifically to early Hollywoodland’s elite performers, local politicians, and ne’er-do-wells. It was located in a nearby unincorporated area, so alcohol could be served around the clock. This was a era when Long’s Tavern was frequented by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, Lottie Pickford, Jack Pickford, Mary Pickford, Mack Sennett, Harold Lloyd and many others who went looking for a good time and good music.

From 1907 to 1926, Watts was a hotbed of unsavory politics, within this predominately all-white community, that was run on bawdy entertainment, bootleg whiskey, and bad decisions. In 1917, Sid LeProtti created a sensation on the Hollywood nightclub scene, by playing the yet unpublished Jelly Roll Morton song, “The Crave“, which caused a major rift between these two musicians. The public at large preferred the LeProtti version of the song to the Morton improvised version of his own work. The Cadillac Cafe on Fifth and Central Avenue in Watts, the old stomping grounds of Morton, was one the many haunts that LeProtti played to an overwhelming jazz following, that were both black and white, so these two men crossing paths while playing in the Los Angeles proper was not uncommon.

Jelly roll Morton-1917 Cadillac Cafe

1917- Jelly Roll Morton Outside The Cadillac Cafe (Left to Right): “Common Sense” Ross, Albertine Pickens, Jelly Roll Morton, Ada “Bricktop” Smith, Eddie Rucker, Mabel Watts.

Aug. 18-1917

California Eagle, August 18, 1917

It was also in Los Angeles that LeProtti found and married his wife, Mayme Golphin. Both “Sid” and Mayme had been previously married, and this was the second go around for the both of them.

One year and one month after “Sid” LeProtti  registered for the draft in 1917, he would be inducted into the U.S. Army in Hawaii. He and his band mates, those who were either drafted or who had enlisted,  were attached to the 25th Infantry Regiment as their resident jazz band. They never spent a single day at Schofield Barracks, but instead their living arrangements were quite exclusive and unique. LeProtti’s rank was “Musician 3rd Class”, five days after arriving from Los Angeles to Hawaii. His permanent living assignment was at the Alexander Young Hotel in Honolulu.

The Roof-Top Garden at the Alexander Young Hotel, one-third of an acre in extent, became one of Honolulu’s most fashionable social venues, in part by the jazz scene that flourished there. During WWI, the Army occupied the entire second floor of the hotel. Even though the Roof-Top Garden venue was great, the war took its toll on the So Different Jazz Band, and most of the musicians ended up going their separate ways after joining the military.


After his tour of duty ended in the South Sea island chain, Leprotti returned home, without a band, and without a job. There were gaps left in his return home, and his fellow band mates had left for the East to replace other musicians who had left to fight the war in Europe, never to return to the West Coast. With money he had saved, LeProtti opened up a shoe shine stand on the corner of Grove Street and University Avenue in Berkeley, and worked as a full time boot black while rebuilding the So Different Jazz Band. Working here and there as an ‘ad-hoc’ pianist, whenever he could, allowed a new So Different Jazz Band to develop from scratch.

“Sid” LeProtti gave Curtis Mosby, Russell Masengale, Ashford Hardee, and Evelyn Joiner their first early breaks in 1922 in the West Coast jazz scene, long before they made big names in the jazz world for themselves. Evelyn Joiner was a phenomenally accomplished entertainer and singer, and very little is known about her, except that she traveled and worked in an ‘all male’ jazz band. Curtis Mosby’s Blues Blowers were legendary, and can be seen playing in the films, Josef Von Sternberg’s 1929 “Thunderbolt” and King Vidor’s 1929 African-American movie musical “Hallelujah“, starring Nina Mae McKinney.

Sid LeProtti New Band
Healdsburg Tribune, September 12, 1922

Healdsburg is actually where this jazz  and baseball story begins. The East Bay location of Sid’s Shine Shop was located on Grove Street and University Avenue in Berkeley, and Purcell’s Cafe in the West Bay located on Pacific Street on the Barbary Coast, are both respectively 70 miles from these locations on either side of the bay, heading North on the King’s Highway — once you’ve crossed over the water. At this time in history, Healdsburg has a predominately white population, located in the heart of Sonoma County, consisting of orchard farmers who provided locally grown goods to both sides of the Bay. Even though segregation is a cultural phenomenon, their fear of African American culture was almost non-existent, especially when to came to money, music, and baseball.

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1923 – Healdsburg Prune Packers

Back row (Left to Right): Al Bidwell, Bob Weston, Bob Vellou, L.J. Hall, Quim Seawell Middle row (Left to Right): Harlan Remmel, Frank Meisner, Pep McDonald, Jim Shinn, Pop Artlett, Gus Smith, Ben Begier Front row (Left to Right): Red Corrick, Zad Vare, Chick Autrey, Husk Contade

The Healdsburg Prune Packers baseball team was organized in 1921, and headed up by former PCL Oakland Oaks pitcher, “Pop” Arlett. This was the era when “Babe” Pinelli, Lou Guisto, Carl Holling played for the Napa team, another steadfast Prune Packer rivalry. Like a lot of teams in the area, the Napans were known for hiring ringers when facing the Prune Packers. From 1921 through 1925, the Pierce Giants of Oakland had a standing invitation to play against the Healdsburg Prune Packers. There was always a big gate, and the Pierce Giants fan base from the East Bay often accompanied them to Healdsburg in groups as large as 400 people. The Pierce Giants of Oakland also traveled with a jazz band, and were highly sought after as a one-stop total entertainment value.

The Healdsburg Tribune-July 16, 1924

The Healdsburg Tribune-July 16, 1924

“Realizing that the game on the local baseball lot tomorrow is the toughest game of the season for them, the Pierce Colored Giants are reported from Oakland to be looking high and low for new playing material, of the proper brunette hue, to strengthen the team that is to line up against the Prune Packers.

So far the only definitive line on increased strength, however, is that addition of the So Different Jazz Band of the colored syncopationists that the Giants carry with them. It is the theory of the colored management that the proper sobbing note on the saxaphone[sic] at just the right moment will add strength to the bats of the dusky players, and that a curve ball thrown by a colored pitcher can be corkscrewed into unbelievable twist if it is urged by a raucous blast on a trombone.

These of course of are only theories, based on the old maxim, “Music hath charms” and it is doubtful if “Pop” Arlett and the Prune Packer aggregation will pay much attention to them. Healdsburg has twice defeated the Giants — one in a pitchers’ battle 1 to 0; the other time in a slugging match, 9 to 8, in 12 innings. It is the intention of the locals to make it three in a row, for nothing it to be gained by weakening the week before the Santa Rosa series starts.” — The Healdsburg Tribune, July 19, 1924

The deeper story that was not told here was the long standing relationship between former team mates and now opposing team leaders, “Pop”Arlett for the Healdsburg Prune Packers and Chet Bost of the Pierce Giants of Oakland, which reached back well over a decade when they both played for Elmhurst in the Oakland City Winter League. These two men were early pioneers of breaking the color line in baseball, who once integrated a team within a league, and  now were engaged in the playing of integrated baseball with an all white team pit against an Independent African American team that traveled all over the state of California during the height of Jim Crow in 1920’s America.

When all is said and done, the story itself involves union vs. non-union musicians and the love of jazz, that was rarely witnessed outside of Terrific Street in San Francisco, West Oakland, or South Berkeley. The battle between the American Federation of Musicians Local 6 in the Bay Area and African American musicians, particularly those that played jazz, is legendary. The best way and sometimes the only way to see the So Different Jazz Band, was to attend a privately sponsored functions, such as a ‘lady’s improvement club’ function, — or a baseball game — where ‘union rules’ of employment for musicians did not apply.

Segregation was one of the strongest factors in where African American jazz bands could be heard or seen live. Even black and tans which operated outside of the laws on most occasions, did so based on the money to be made by the club owners, crooked politicians, and the elite upper crust of society who enjoyed jazz music so much, that the risk was worth the reward in the long run. There is no doubt that African American baseball spread the sounds of jazz all over the nation, and that jazz and baseball were intrinsically tied to one another, by hook and sometimes by crook. Being hard pressed when asking, ‘where has the music of baseball gone?‘, we know that jazz was once the music of baseball that lasted over four decades. The untold story on “How Baseball Gave Us Jazz” is that one where the Pierce Giants of Oakland took the So Different Jazz Band with them when they barnstormed rural California, spreading good will, good cheer, good music, and good baseball wherever they landed.

Interview with “Sid” LeProtti by Turk Murphy, including “The Crave“, (the way Jelly showed me). Film footage of the So Different Cafe on Terrific StreetTexas Tommy and Barbary Coast Dancers featuring the So Different Jazz Band.

Where they cut their teeth: The Oakland Giants of Grove Street Park

Oakland Giants-ii

1912 Oakland Giants

This amazing photograph of the Oakland Giants tells a very unique story in itself. The kids in the photograph differ in race from the men in the photograph. Upon closer scrutiny, we can see the make up of the team, and who played on it; at least on that day. Not much is known about this African American team, other than they were a sight to see when they took the field, and were crowd pleasers to one and all who enjoyed the pleasure of watching them take up the ball and bat.

Their home field was Grove Street Park, which was located on  in Oakland, California on 57th & Grove Street, which is now called Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  There, they met such teams as Berkeley Independents, Burlingame,  the Brock & Lott team, the Clarions, Hirschfields, the Monarchs, the Pennant Bars,  Mill Valley, and Watsonville. Grove Street Park was once solely leased out by Cy Moreing  of the California State League from the Stockton area, who once owned the Oakland franchise of the California based league. Moreing accessed the park from the Oakland Township for the specific reason of creating a strong outlaw baseball league in 1908. Cy was also a business man first and foremost, and knowing how to draw a crowd and make a buck, shared the space with the Oakland Giants, allowing African Americans to play on a field against the wishes of J. Cal Ewing of Pacific Coast League.

Grove St. Park-Cy Moreing-SFC-Mar. 12, 1912

San Francisco Call, March 12, 1912

Moreing knew best how to get under Ewing’s skin, and by letting African American baseball players on any field that was shared with a white teams was certainly the best way to get Ewing’s goat.

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Cy Moreing, Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide -1907, pg. 227

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Left to Right: Top Row: A. Thomas, unknown, N. “Tick” Houston, Herb Clarke, Nelson Watson (manager), Chet Bost, Richardson, unknown, Perry.
Bottom Row: Hillary “Bullet” Meaddows, White.

The Freeeman-Hilary Meaddows 5-25-1912

The Freeman, May 25, 1912

The Oakland Giants were owned and managed by Nelson Watson, born in Salina, Kansas in 1882. Growing up in the town where Lee Jeans had opened their first factory, young Nelson was probably a keen observer of industry, and eventually moved West to seek his fortune in West Oakland. He worked in a barbershop as a porter in Swan’s Market, and eventually became a Ships’ Carpenter’s helper on Mare Island, which was known as the first base of operations protecting commerce of the United States, building the earliest model submarines for the United States Navy, and also the Navy’s very first Aircraft Carrier. His leadership was instrumental in building a winning team.

Nelson Watson

The Giants, better known as the Oakland Giants are making quite a record  this season, having lost only one game out of the nine played. The club is composed of several high class ball players who rank the best on the coast.

Clarke, captain of the club, has carefully gotten together and drilled the team to play a nice article of ball, and with himself and such god[sic] men as Bost, Martin, and Houston, he has an infield which is very hard to beat.

Chet Bost, his fast shortstop, is a valuable man to the club as he has had league experience, having played short for the Occidentals of the Utah State league last season. He is one of the club’s heavy hitters and the speediest base-runners, as he is hitting 320.” -The Oakland Tribune, June 27, 1912

Some of the other team members pictured, like B. Martin played on the Elmhurst team, in the Oakland City winter league. “Tick” Houston played on a integrated team in Fruitvale called the Oakwoods the season before joining the Oakland Giants. And a very young Hillary “Bullet” Meaddows pitched as well as caught for the Oakland Giants, and this is where his three decade career in baseball really began. Most of the cities that the Oakland Giants played in would have been considered “sundown town”, and traveling these out-of-the-way distances by car, train, or ferry to and from places like Watsonville, Petaluma, Mill Valley or Burlingame would have been an added adventure along the California Coast on El Camino Real, internally along “State Route” Hwy 99, or across the San Francisco Bay by boat or ferry.

The “State Highways Act” was passed, taking effect on December 31, 1910, so most of the roads being constructed at that time were fairly new, or old very old toll roads that were made of  dirt and at best had gravel in some places — and the towns along the way were rural and small. Oakland was a major city compared to a lot of agricultural towns that the Oakland Giants played against in 1912, and seeing African Americans men play baseball was a ‘novelty’, especially when their baseball skill sets were above average. The Oakland Giants travels were reminiscent of Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, because this was California still in its youth, where the King’s Highway went from one mission town to the next.

What the city of Oakland looked like…

Oakland Rug Works 1910


….was not what the California road system looked like in 1912.