The Oakland Pierce Giants
I had heard that Charlie Reid pitched for the Oakland Pierce Giants, but I’d never seen him in uniform until a picture of them. .
The Oakland Pierce Giants, according to Bill Staples book, “Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer“, were called “The Colored Giants“, “Shadow Giants“, “Lynne-Stanley Giants“, “Weilheimer Giants“, “Pierce Giants“, “Oaks“, and “Oak Leafs“. I’m not really sure how he accessed this information is, because my research shows different completely different data. At some point, I hope we can exchange our findings.
I used what know as the bullet proof method of tracking down information when it came to the Oakland Pierce Giants. Hilary “Bullet” Meaddows proved to be an invaluable source when it came to tracking down the players of the Oakland Pierce Giants, and how the evolved into what would become the genesis team/group for the Berkeley Colored League, which was started by Byron “Speed” O’Reilly.
I’ve only been able to locate one small article on the Lynne-Stanley Giants, where they defeated the Wixsons, by a score of 5 to 3, at Grove Street Park, in Berkeley on August 18th, 1913. And, I was only able to locate that by chance, finding Meaddows mentioned in the article. Hilary “Bullet” Meaddows, sometime called “Rapid Fire” Meaddows was a phenomenal player, according to many news articles and my Grandfather, “Big Sharkey” Winston Auther. According to my calculations, and the articles I was able to obtain, Hilary “Bullet” Meaddows played the game of baseball for well over twenty-two years. He played with everyone from Chet Bost to Jimmy Claxton, Yellowhorse Morris, all the way to Sunny Jim Bonner. He played his early years as a hard-hitting second baseman, sometimes switching to shortstop and even hurling on the mound when needed. His base stealing skills are legendary. In his own words, “I’m and old man, but I’m a good one“.
Charlie Reid was also a phenomenal pitcher that most Negro baseball historians have never heard of, but is a well known figure in the East Bay Area. Charlie is known to have pitched against the like of Chick Hafey, Buzz Arlett, Ernie Lombardi, and Lefty Gomez. This might seem unusual to some, because even though it is well known among the African American community of the San Francisco Bay Area, not many people outside of “Shadow Ball” arena know about the skill level of those African Americans that played the game of baseball against their Caucasian contemporaries, at a time when being semi-pro was the only option you had on the West Coast, based on the era of Jim Crow in America. The Charles Reid Foundation is still very active today and has brought happiness, annually, to hundreds of at-risk youths living in Richmond, CA. by helping them develop life skills that will help excel in their future.
I’ve been recently researching the Carrol Giants of Los Angeles, which was a team owned by Will Carrol and managed by Lonnie Goodwin, when I came across this article.
The California Eagle, July 26, 1924
The Carrol Giants were a short lived team, who I believe the owner, Will Carrol, absconded with the teams funds and didn’t pay his field fees, and thus was locked out of Goodyear Park. Will Carrol was responsible for the money and business side of the Carrol Giant’s team, and after a series of early losses, I believe he couldn’t handle the pressure of team building. Soon after, the Japser All-Stars. lead by mananger/owner John Jasper would fill the void left by the Carrol Giants. Jasper’s crew had players like Slowtime Evans and Bob Fagen. Fagen was was eventually chosen to lead the Jasper All-Stars as their manager and wrote a series of articles called, “My Experience As A Manager” for the 1924 California Eagle newspaper. He based his experience at at managing and leadership qualities on his ideal manager of managers, Lonnie Goodwin.
What he had to say about ball players of any professional magnitude, and why they might consider playing in the West as opposed to the East, would be their ability to play baseball year around as opposed to five months a year, in he article called “West vs. East“. He stated that the players from the West are in better condition and seldom left there small towns where they were comfortable. But, his emphatic statement about the main reason being that “managers don’t want to pay sufficient salaries to beginners from the bushes.“, speaks volume to what I’ve been saying to members of the SABR community for months now. The social dynamics and opportunity for African American men during the days of Jim Crow kept some of the best players close to that opportunity.
I’m not sure that Gary Ashwill or Bill Staples will agree with me on the issue of why some of the best African American baseball players remained in the West, or those that played in the Negro League Majors, left the league and headed West to make a life for themselves. Some will continue to state that they were in their declining years as sportsmen. The social dynamic of securing a park to hold seasonal play was also a major limiting factor, and there’s was a lot of mileage and land between Kansas City and California. The African American population in both the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County was sparse in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The Great Migration was a move from the South to the North, and to the North East and Midwest in most cases. The West was an oasis for the African American who stayed and built a life, but it still wasn’t free of Jim Crow. One added advantage of living in the West was one wasn’t limited to playing baseball for a living, and if the truth be told, a lot of players from the East were limited by their options in the days of Jim Crow to only playing baseball for a living.
As Charlie Reid stated, “I played for several other semi-pro teams in Vallejo, Martinez and just about every city in Northern California. Some times I made as much as $100 for pitching one ball game.”
$100 was a lot of money between 1912 and 1934. It was especially a lot of money for playing “semi-pro” ball in a single game, when it was a known fact that Eastern League teams had difficulties paying their players on time, or never paid enough to keep them from jumping teams to make a decent, livable wage. These long standing semi-pro teams of the West could match the skills of any Eastern teams they came across, but it was really a money ball type of existence for Western African American baseball players. Exhibition games paid better than the standard league play, but if there was some accolades for winning against one of the best teams or players, or just playing them for bragging rights, the players from the West would pick up their gloves, travel to areas unwelcomed, and play for the sake of a story to tell later on.
I will explain in a future post how the Oakland Pierce Giants morphed into the Royal Colored Giants of Oakland, and they would become the flagship of the Berkeley Colored League, lead by the indefatigable Byron “Speed” O’Reilly.
Time to go make some Christmas Gumbo for the family.