This story is about opportunity outside of the venue of baseball.
Many African Americans played the game of baseball diligently, and in doing so, became famous beyond their wildest dreams. For, in a time when traveling around from town to town, unaccepted at the accommodations afforded to many others who did not bear the burden of being a person of color, these men flourished as ambassadors of good will and social harmony. in an era where “race” was a major defining factor between being looked at as good or bad, accepted or not accepted, these men represented the foundation for the majority of American people, those who were willing enough to expose themselves to a different concept of social interaction, even if it was at a distance from the field to the bleachers. These would be the men that would eventually change the course of history in American forever, to hopefully a more civil society than had ever occurred before in American history.
Yet, there is all types of social interaction vehicles that change the course of history.
Music is one of then.
I’ve being doing a lot of thinking lately, about how people research Negro League baseball players. I’ve been wondering if they expose themselves to the myriad of life’s experiences beyond tossing the pill. Where and how their research begins, when searching for a ball player’s career and stats are concerned, one usually starts by looking at that ball player being mentioned by some writer, in some abstract news article or book that they’ve picked up somewhere, that mentions the player in question. As the researcher’s interest grows, and they become obsessed about finding out some detailed information on their subject matter, they sometimes give up when the trail runs more cold than hot. Even though I focus on West Coast African American baseball history, I’ve often run across obscure articles here and there during my research, which explains, better than I can, the social dynamics of Depression Era baseball that I’m most interested in.
That which addresses life altering decisions, and the issues of financial stability during one of the worse financial periods in American history. How would the life of an African American baseball player might turn out, if they chose not to play in the Black Major leagues? If an opportunity like that ever presented itself to do just that? They say Bob was a star pitcher with a lot of talent. These questions are seldom asked by baseball researchers. Because, in order to do so, the player in question would have to have other options available in his life, and he would have to allow for opportunities to exercise those options for this alternative life to unfold. He would have to take charge of his life, enabling him to secure his personal future. The Great Depression held very little in the way of opportunity for anyone, especially employment opportunities for African American men.
You had to take certain risk to make money the best way you saw fit, and in most cases, your opportunities were extremely limited, regardless of your color. The Great Depression suffered no foolishness from anyone of any race, creed or color.
The story of Bob Pease, where this “financial’ issue is concerned, peaked my interest, and I’m still very interested in locating more information about his baseball career with the 1928 Philadelphia Colored Giants Of New York.
The Minor Leagues Committee of SABR provided the information found in Baseball-Reference.Com, listed the 1928 Philadelphia Colored Giants Of New York, as one of the fifteen 1928 Independent Negro Minor League teams that operated in the East.
Bob Pease is also mentioned in the Minors_@_Baseball-Reference.Com League players section of Baseball-Reference.Com, although it does not mention what team he played for, what position he played, or his any stats–which might help tell us how well he played the game. I happened to secure this article on Bob Pease, which gave enough information to find out he was a pitcher of some note, and according to Louise Landis, entertainment correspondent for the San Francisco Spokesman, Bob Pease played for the 1928 Philadelphia Colored Giants. I’m making the guess it was the 1928 Philadelphia Colored Giants, and not Sol White’s 1902-1911 Philadelphia Colored Giants, based on his age, which I’ve yet to verify.
The San Francisco Spokesman, February 16,1933
Bob Pease was a very well known musician in Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles. He began his singing career as a tenor, while he played piano for the Three Keys, out of “black and tan” spots of Chester, Philadelphia. His piano playing skills were par excellent, and he had the ivory-tinkling style very similar to that of Earl “Fatha” Hines. Musically, his talents for singing and playing the piano blended well with the Three Keys trio without ever taking center stage. He knew his musical success would be built on team work, and the skills he acquired playing baseball for the 1928 Philadelphia Giant of New York transitioned very well into his musical career.
Bob Pease, Slim Furness, and George “Bob Bon” Tunnell of the Three Keys
In this 1932 article in the Afro American, it was reported that the Three Keys has just landed a contract to perform four time a week, live, on the National Broadcasting System, when radio is in was in its heyday. This is where Bob’s baseball career effectively ended, and his career in radio, stage and film began.
The Afro-American, August 20, 1932
Based on this article, Bob would have been born on 1907, which would have made it impossible for him have played with Rube Foster, Spottswood Poles, Dick Redding and Sol White, or of any of the other great original Philadelphia Giants. Also, based on this article, I found a movie short on youtube, featuring the The Keys singing “The Their Eyes” As for finding out more about ‘Bob Pease the minor league hurler’, I will have to search through some old Philadelphia Tribune articles, if I can locate some that have been micro-formed, then digitized for posterity. These two articles, one from 1932 and one from 1933 verify that Bob Pease actually did exist, and the he did play minor league baseball for the 1928 Philadelphia Colored Giants.
Bob Pease ‘big league’ fame would found with the Three Keys!
The Three Keys had these hit songs:
1) Someone Stole Garbriel’s Horn Brunswick 6388 – 1932
2) Wah Dee Daw Brunswick 6423 – 1932
3) (I Would Do) Anything For You Brunswick 6522 – 1933
4) That Doggone Dog Of Mine Brunswick 6522 – 1933
5) Heebie Jeebies Vocalion 2523 – 1933
6) Song Of The Islands Vocalion 2523 – 1933
I hope you enjoy these song.
By the way, George “Bon Bon” Tunnell was one of the first African Americans to sing in an all white Big Band, when he was a featured artist singing with Jan Savitt‘s Top Hatters
If I find out more about Bob Pease, I will write a follow up post.