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.

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

vice-map-with-google-map-overlay
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_exterior-li
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
H. Smith – 1912 Oakland Giants

H.Smith-ii
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_1883
English Cricket Team of 1882

436px-Ashes_Urn_1921-i
The Ashes”  urn of Cricket – 1882

Ashes_song-i
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.

1916_0213_oakland_giants

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

 

 

 

 

 

Options in Elmhurst: Echoes of the Past

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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.

Chet Bost – The West Coast Linchpin

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Chester Allen Bost-U.S. Census 1900

 

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

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

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

 

According to the Oakland Tribune, September 27, 1925:

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

 

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

Those are the basics.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Salt Lake Tribune, April 16, 1911

 

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

Salt Lake Tribune-May 14, 1911

 

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

Salt Lake Tribune– June17, 1911

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Following are the players by the respective team leaders:

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

 

By March 21, 1916:

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

Morning Oregonian-March 21, 1916

 

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

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

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

 

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

Oakland Tribune — April 2, 1916

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Many stories have been written about Claxton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

1917-1918_0605_draft_registration_bost-ii

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

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 1.41.29 PM

Ice Cream Review, Vol. 2, September 1917

 

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

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

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

 

Shasta Giants 1919-20

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

 

Oakaland Tribune-Jun 30-1919

Oakland Tribune — June 30, 1919

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

 

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

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

C.L. Best Tractors 1918

 

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

 

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

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

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

The Oakland Tribune states:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Chet Bost-Oakland Pierce Giant

 

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

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

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

If you can find one.

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

Chet Bost is the reason they’ll always endure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Negro League Baseball: African American Baseball, History And Archaeology

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

1989-Cypress_collapsed

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

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

Tank Demolition

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

Construction Of The Cypress Freeway

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

Cypress Freway Excahnge-1

The Double Decked Cypress Interstate 880 Freeway

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

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

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

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

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

Fourth & Sixth Ward-West Oakalnd Map-1878

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

1) San Pablo Park

2) The Key System

The Key System Electric Train Transit

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

1) Curt Flood

2) Vada Pinson

3) Frank Robinson

4) Willie Stargell

5) Kevin Maas

6) Rickey Henderson

7) Dave Stewart

8) Randy Johnson

9) Joe Morgan

10) Don Wakamatsu

11) Charlie Beamon

13) Bill Rigney

14) Jackie Jensen

15) Ed Fernandes

Sam Bercovich and Curt Flood-1955

Sam Bercovich and Curt Flood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The San Francisco Spokesman, Jan 4, 1934

Slim Jenkins Place 2-7th Street

Slim Jenkins Place circa 1950’s

Map Legend Of West Oakland

Map of West Oakland circa 1940’s

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

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

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

Negro League Baseball: The Rise, Fall, And Transformation Of The Oakland Pierce Giants

As was stated in my last post, concerning  “The Oakland Pierce Giants“, Bill Staple’s made certain references to the Oakland Pierce Giants taking the field under many different monikers, in his book, “Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer“. Bill contacted me about after reading my post. My comment was not an attack on his book. After many years of researching the information for myself, I’ve come to the conclusion and realization about researching African American baseball on the West coast based on Jim Crow era news articles, or hearing stories told by an aging elder, whose memory isn’t a sharp as it used to be. The task that lays ahead of us, is even more daunting than one could imagine. Those of us who consider ourselves historians of African American baseball have many tough obstacles laid out before us, and sometimes a comment can be misconstrued or taken as a slight of someones hard work and efforts in uncovering detailed events never before seen by the public. I’ll make my assertions based on these facts alone with the data that has been presented to me through my own research; unless the reporter slash journalist states the names of the player(s),  or gives a line-up in the article in the teams you’re researching, I cannot assume any of the teams with like-sounding names sported the same players.

It really isn’t anything personal, and Bill reached out to me and offered to show me his research findings on the Oakland Pierce Giants, over a period of time, when the opportunity presents itself. I’m sure he’s a very busy man. I appreciate his offer, because the task of documenting African American baseball, or any early ethnic baseball team or league on the West Coast can be a bear for those of us who go at it full bore. With that in mind, I’d like to extend the offer of my research findings out to Bill and other SABR members, who are interested in setting the records straight for posterity. Because exploring the social dynamic differences and interactions between Eastern, North Eastern, Midwestern, Southern, and Western African American baseball teams, and other ethnic baseball teams, is truly imperative to those of us who want to set the records straight in the 21st Century.

Having said that…

There were many teams that called themselves one or another version of “Giants” that hailed from California, and Chet Bost may or may not have been involved with some of them. One of those teams that called themselves the “Giants”, was the Shasta Limiteds, which featured Jimmy Claxton, former hurler for the PCL’s Oakland Oaks. That was– until he was outed by Rowdy Elliot for being less than forthcoming about his African American heritage. Byron “Speed” O’Reilly tells a very interesting story about that memorable West Oakland incident that cost Jimmy Claxton his position with the Oakland Oaks.

C.G. Bradford was manager for the Shasta Limiteds, who were also known as the Negro Giants Of California. Bost is mentioned in one article I found, and it connects him to the Shasta Limiteds. It is my belief, that because Jimmy Claxton played for a team that referred to themselves “the Giants” when deemed appropriate, and the average individual assumes that it was the Oakland Pierce Giants. I haven’t been able to verify any information that ties Claxton to the Oakland Pierce Giants or Chet Bost. There is a blog out there that says Claxton played for Bost, but it offers no access to verify their findings or the teams they played on together. It only mentions Bost in passing, more as a footnote to Claxton performance as an individual. The article below explains how this was probably a singular exception. Information on Claxton’s life and baseball career between 1916 and 1919 is sparse. The “Oakland aggregation” mentioned in the article below was more than likely the Oakland Pierce Giants that had served the Shasta Limiteds their only defeat for that season in 1919.

Bears To Meet Negro Nine Here-6-2-1919-i

Bears To Meet Negro Nine Here-6-2-1919-ii

The Evening News, San Jose June 3, 1919

The Shasta Limiteds, as a team name carried a moniker that represented  a strong social connection within the African American community. This is something I’ll be discussing in future blogs. This connection between the early African American baseball players and the transcontinental railroad system, as it was the preferred form of travel is seldom discussed among the SABR community. The Shasta Limiteds, as they were ‘officially’ called, used this personal name, referring to themselves after a ‘express train’ that traveled, daily, between Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California. The Southern Pacific line used Pullman Porters, and the Shasta Limited De Luxe, was an “exclusive extra-fare train catering to the most elite of passengers” [1]. It required the best of the best to work the Pullman Sleeping Car that travled the Portland to San Francisco express route on a twenty-seven hour turn around.  Most of the West Coast African American baseball players of the early days, were tied intrinsically to the Pullman Porters, the Red Caps, and the Oakland Mole in one way or another. This helped foster the growth of West Oakland, which was also known as the Harlem Of The West, during the 1920’s to 1940’s.

Southern Pacific Co's Broad Gauge Mole Oakland CA 1687

The Oakland Mole-Transcontinental Railroad Terminus

One of the things I’ve noticed in my research, that during the era of Jim Crow journalism, the writers used repetitious referencing to African American baseball teams as either ‘fast’ or ‘comedic’. This was commonplace and seemed to be the required social perception of that period in American history. It seemed to be part of an overall marketing strategy used by promoters and journalist in those days to fill the ball parks. Specific terminology like ‘fast or ‘comedic’ made the Caucasian viewing public feel safe. Enough so, that engaging with African Americans to play within the confines of their cloistered and protected neighborhood, white patrons needed to hype the style of African American ball play as a selling point to fill the seats.

This is partly do to the fact that some African American teams represented themselves that way, in order to procure gainful employment during the Great Depression, while presenting themselves as entertainers as well as sportsmen, in a world which limited them only by the color of their skin. Jim Crow journalist often gave their readership the impression that coming to see African Americans baseball players engage Caucasians players on their home fields was a dangerous and heady proposition. It was a major selling point for those who felt the need to live dangerously within the confines of their community, even though no real danger actually existed. Sometimes, a Jim Crow journalist would mention the fact that a lot of  African American teams bringing a large constituency of fans with them. Sundown towns in California, seldom saw so many African Americans is one locale, especially their own county or township. This often left the reader of this type of news with an sense of danger or excitement, depending on their visceral response to African Americans venturing to their town for a game. The fact that the Shasta Limited also chose to call themselves “Giants”, was because their mere size was a crowd drawing feature that reached beyond their color. Jimmy Claxton is a prime example of someone who was often described by his 6 foot 4 stature as a “Giant”, while at the same time conversely referred to as a “little Jimmy Claxton” [2], or “Jimmy is a little fellow, only six feet four inches tall” [3] .

Try, as I may, I cannot substantiate everything that has been said about the concepts surrounding the “The Colored Giants“, “Shadow Giants“, “Lynne-Stanley Giants“, “Weilheimer Giants“, “Pierce Giants“, “Oaks“, and “Oak Leafs“, or that they were all teams nurtured by C.A. “Chet” Bost. What I can do is confirm the existence of the the Negro Giants Of California (also known as the Shasta Limiteds), the Colored Giants of Oakland, the Lynne-Stanley Giants, the Nehi Giants (of the Berkeley Winter League), the Royal Colored Giants of Oakland, the San Francisco Giants (sometimes called the San Francisco Colored Giants), the Oakland Giants, and the Oakland Pierce Giants. After reading so many articles, where the team name differs, but the line-up remains the same a week later, even though there has been no change in sponsorship, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Jim Crow journalist at that time were not interested enough in the players to get the team’s name correct. Because even though the sportsmanship may have excelled by those participating in the scheduled events, it was still only for the purpose of exhibition and not–social recognition.

I am almost certain that Chet Bost had very little to do with the most of these teams other than the Shasta Limiteds and the Oakland Giants. The Oakland Pierce Giants left a distinct paper trail of familiar names of players, using them over and over again on reconstituted teams, until they would eventually become the core group of individuals that initiated the Western American Baseball League, and eventually morph into the Berkeley Colored League.

When Steve Pierce’s Oakland Pierce Giants won the Northern California Semi-Pro Championship, in league play against the San Francisco Eagles, a cycle of events would take place, where the certain names appear for the discerning eye.

CE-1924-Pierce Giants Cinch North California Championship

The California Eagle, August 1, 1924

I haven’t had a chance to research the San Francisco Eagles as deeply as I would have liked to do before writing this post, but the name that stuck out most in my eye was their pitcher, “Elliot”. I’m certain that this was Ernest Elliot of the Berkeley Colored League, and he was one of the starting pitchers for the Royal Colored Giants Of Oakland [4], during the the creation phase of the Western American Baseball League in 1927.

The remaining facts of this story are this: The Oakland Pierce Giants would remain the Northern California Semi-Pro Champions of 1924. The Jasper All Stars, which had replaced the Carrol Giants earlier that year, defeated the Glendale White Sox, and would be considered the Southern California Semi-Pro Champions [5] by default— because no actual series ever took place. Lonnie Goodwin never accepted Steve Pierce’s challenge for a State Champion series and could not find a park to play in at the time of the offer. Manager John Jasper never negotiated a series between the Jasper All Stars and the Oakland Pierce Giants with Steve Pierce. By February 1925, the Oakland Pierce Giants were left to the own design, when Steve Pierce bought the Detroit Stars, eventually heading East and leaving the 1924 Northern California Champions to fend for themselves, by barnstorming here and there in California, which became a way of life for those who continued to play as a ‘team’, until they could find new leadership that would nurture their talents to build a league.

CE-Steve Pierce Of Oakland Buys Detroit National Team-2-13-1925-i

CE-Steve Pierce Of Oakland Buys Detroit National Team-2-13-1925-ii

The California Eagle, February 13, 1925

1) “Southern Pacific Passenger Trains”, by Brian Solomon, Voyageur Press, Page 88

2) Shasta Limited Nine To Meet Bears”, San Jose Evening News, June 6. 1919

3) “Bears To Meet Negro Nine Here”, Evening News, San Jose California, June 3, 1919, page 5

4] “Gene Valla To Lead Padres In Game Against Colored Giants”, The Santa Cruz Everning News from Santa Cruz, July 9, 1927

5) Headline-“ALL STARS SEMI-PRO CHAMPS”, The California Eagle, August 27, 1924, Page 9

Negro League Baseball: The Oakland Pierce Giants

 

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.

Charles Reid ball player

Charlie Reid

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.

CE-1924-Oakland Pierce Giants May Play Here Labor Day

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.

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