Options in Elmhurst: Echoes of the Past

Screen Shot 2019-03-01 at 1.03.54 PM

Elmhurst Team of 1911 — Oakland City Winter League 

(Left to Right: back row: (?) Adams; Center Field – -Eddie Jackson; Catcher — Chet Bost; Right Field — Alexander Benjamin “Pop” Arlett; Pitcher — C.J. Toffelmier; 2nd Base — (?) Arlie; Shortstop — B. Martin 1st Base — Front row: (?) Christensen; 2nd Base — Russ “Buzz” Arlett; mascot — (?) Adaming; 3rd Base. 
NOTE: The (?) represents missing the first name of the player

Elmhurst was once an all white neighborhood.

The year is 1911, and it is the second year of the Central California League, which is now comprised of eight teams totaling sixty players, under the watchful eye of Judge Edward P. Shortfall of the San Francisco 3rd District Police Court, who is President of the burgeoning minor league, that almost no one has ever heard about.  His ever faithful Secretary of he league, J.C. Toffelmier, also plays 2nd base for the Elmhurst Tildens, who were originally called the Elmhurst Incubators from the inception of the league in 1910.

These eight teams that stretched geographically from Vallejo to Hayward and consisted of: the Alameda Alerts, the Berkeley Clarions, the Elmhurst Tildens, the Fruitvale Travelers, the Hayward Cubs, the Richmond Merchants, the San Leandro Cherry Pickers, and the Vallejo Pastimes, and this minor league was registered as one of the many leagues in the 1911 National Association of Professional Baseball Teams.

By the end of the season, only six teams were still in working order, and the Elmhurst Tildens was not one of them. Their star pitcher, Alexander Benjamin “Pop” Arlett was playing for teams outside of the league, whenever he could, and he eventually ended the season as the lead pitcher for the San Leandro Cherry Pickers. “Pop” Arlett would spend many years in PCL  minor leagues, pitching for various teams.  He was a big ticket draw for an amateur in those days, and his baby brother Russell “Buzz” Arlett would one day become known as the Babe Ruth of the Minor Leagues, before moving up to the big leagues and playing for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Pop Arlett -PCl

1917 Zeenut — Alexander Benjamin “Pop” Arlett

Arlett Buzz-1925-ii

1925 Zeenut — Russ “Buzz” Arlett

That is only one half of the story being told. The other half is the Oakland City League winter baseball team that was fronted by “Pop” Arlett and J.C. Tofflemier, which was a fully integrated baseball team on the West Coast in 1911, and had made a name for itself throughout the Bay Area. Charles. R. Fulweiler, reporter for the San Francisco Bulletin, which was one of the oldest newspapers in the Bay Area originally founded as the Daily Evening Bulletin by James King of William, was President of the Oakland City League.

Eddie Jackson was one of “Pop” Arlett’s favorite battery mates. They played  together on the Elmhurst Tildens in the Central California League on many occasions, which by all accounts is one of earliest record of a integrated pitcher-catcher duo on the West Coast, during  an era known as the Second Coming of the Klan.  A new wave of white supremacy was destined to take hold between 1910 on through 1920 all over America, creating sundown towns where their previous existence was unheard of, and that would divide many burgeoning communities into fully segregated cities where definitive color lines would be drawn.

Jackson was a very fair skinned African American, and was considered a ‘mulatto”, according to 1910 U.S. Census Records. Born in New York City in 1887, As a young man, he had moved West to find his fortune, and was gainfully employed and a telegraph operator for Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. He lived in the all white neighborhood between the Bushrod and Longfellow areas on Market Street.  Eddie was a single father, raising a one-year old son in 1911, which was not an uncommon occurrence in America during this period, but more than likely, a very difficult task to accomplish. Eddie Jackson also played ball with “Pop” Arlett, J.C. Tofflemier, Christensen, Adaming and Buzz Arlett on the 1916 San Leandro Western Jewelers semi-pro club, where he was also the only African American on this East Bay area team.

Eddie Jackson-1911 San Leando-Western Jewelers-II

1916 San Leandro Western Jewelers

Left to Right  Top Row: J.C. Toffelmier, Christensen, unknown, “Pop” Arlett, “Buzz”Arlett, Eddie Jackson, unknown mascot
Bottom Row: Unknown, unknown, Adaming

Jackson is probably best known to historians as the battery mate for Jimmy Claxton, when he played for the all-star Shasta Limiteds in 1919.

Shasta Giants 1919-20

1919 Shasta Limiteds

TEAM MEMBERS (as per the June 26, 1919 Oakland Tribune) ARE AS FOLLOWS:
Left to Right Top Row: Owner Tod Graham, Jimmy Claxton, “Tick” Houston, Goldie Davis, Carlisle Perry, Gene Cooper, Chet Bost, and the Trainer Green
Left to Right Bottom Row: (?) Fisher, Eddie Jackson, “Bullet” Hilary Meadows, Billy Woods, (?) Brown, and (?) and Vaughns  NOTE: The (?) represents missing the first name of the player

Not much is known about B. Martin, except that he was one of the most outstanding First Basemen that the Bay Area had to offer. Finding him playing on a integrated team speaks highly of his skills, because he was better known for playing on the 1912 Oakland Giants, an all African American team that was known for its speed, ball handling, and showmanship, under the management of Neslon Watson. The Oakland Giants hosted such players as Hillary “Bullet” Meaddows, Chet Bost, “Tick” Houston. Also, all of these men played on the 1919 Shasta Limiteds and the 1923 Pierce Giants of Oakland. Meaddows did a short stint with the Alexander Giants of Los Angeles, and  Bost was a former shortstop for the Salt Lake Occidentals of Utah, a team fronted by Frank Black, that fielded many great players in its heyday.

Chet Bost was the West Coast Linchpin slash player, slash manager, slash coach, slash baseball confidante, when it came to the six degrees of separation connecting any number of African American baseball players, semi pro to professional, on the West Coast and beyond. From Dead Ball Era to the creation of the Negro Leagues, Bost more than likely played a significant role in breaking new boundaries while keeping many doors open for greatness to blossom in areas yet to be explored.

By the 1920’s, race and separation of the races were deeply embedded in the West Coast as well as the rest of the nation, and it dominated all aspects and walks of life on a daily basis, unlike the early burgeoning era when life was simple in the California bushes. African American baseball during the dead ball era holds a host of twist and turns and unexplored concepts and ideas about how we got to where we are today, and how far we’ve come as a nation when if comes to the National Pastime. “Buzz” Arlett and his older brother “Pop”, grew up playing baseball, and they played the game with great African American baseball players.

Elmhurst-East Oakland 1896 map-ii

Elmhurst was once an all white neighborhood.

Today Elmhurst is East Oakland.

Advertisements

One thought on “Options in Elmhurst: Echoes of the Past

  1. Pingback: So Different Baseball Team- Pierce Giants of Oakland | The Shadow Ball Express

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s