Discover Greatness: Part 2

1901-1919: The Great Independents

1901 — John J. McGraw, Baltimore Orioles manager, tries to sign Black player Charlie Grant to his team under the guise of “Charlie Tokohama,” a Cherokee Indian. The ruse is discovered and Grant is quickly barred from play.

1904 — Andrew Foster of the Philadelphia Giants defeats the great Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia A’s, earning the nickname “Rube.”

1906 — International League of Independent Professional Base Ball Clubs, which includes both Black and white teams, is formed. The league fails to last a full season.

1911 — Rube Foster reorganizes the Chicago Leland Giants as the Chicago American Giants. Chicago becomes the focal point of Black baseball.

1915 — International All-Nations team is organized by J. L. Wilkinson of Des Moines, Iowa. The team will lay the groundwork for later Kansas City Monarchs dynasty.

Charlie Grant

In 1901, former Columbia Giants second baseman Charlie Grant was signed by John McGraw to a Baltimore Orioles contract. Under the guise of a Cherokee Indian, the newly christened “Charlie Tokohoma” was quickly exposed by White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey and banned from Major League play.

Dr. Lawrence Hogan, Emeritus Professor of History at Union County College, on “Chief Tokomaha”

Walter Ball, 1902

Later to become the ace of the Leland Giants pitching staff, Ball is shown here (only Black player) with the semi-pro St. Cloud team from Minnesota. He once won 25 of 28 games pitching for the Grand Forks team of the Red River Valley League.

Philadelphia Giants, 1904

The Philadelphia Giants were the prototype of Black independent teams and made Black baseball a popular attraction after the turn of the century. This pioneering team featured Grant “Home Run” Johnson (TR,1L), Rube Foster (TR,2L), Sol White (in top hat), Charlie Grant (TR,1R), Danny “NoHit” McClellan (BR,1L) and Pete Hill (BR, 2L).

Sampson Warming Up, 1905

Sampson (no first name on record) was considered by Solomon White, author of the 1907 History of Colored Baseball, to be one of the game’s top moundsmen. He is shown here as a member of the famous 1905 Cuban Giants.

Chicago Leland Giants, 1909

The Leland Giants were owned by Frank Leland, former player with the Washington Capital Cities. One of the greatest independent teams ever assembled, the Giants featured outstanding players like Pete Hill (BR,1L), Walter Ball (BR,4L), Bill Gatewood (BR,2R) and Rube Foster (BR,1R). Leland poses in three piece suit and derby.

Andrew “Rube” Foster

The robust, rotund, and sometimes rebellious Rube Foster is known as the “Father of Black Baseball” due to his entrepreneurial and leadership qualities. A former pitcher for the Leland Giants, Philadelphia Giants and the Cuban X-Giants, he was the most feared and respected pitcher during the pre-league days.

The All-Nations Team

The All-Nations, originally based in Des Moines, Iowa, were an interracial team owned by J.L. Wilkinson. In 1915 and 1917, they defeated the tough Chicago American Giants and in 1916 swept a two-game series against the Indianapolis ABCs. This team, sponsored by Hopkins brothers, featured John Donaldson (seated in the center) as their ace pitcher.

Hilldale Baseball and Exhibition Company, 1917

This is the first year the club from Darby, Pennsylvania, played as an incorporated team. Their team captain was Otto Briggs (TR, 2R). He managed Hilldale in 1927 and 1928, before becoming circulation manager of the Philadelphia Tribune newspaper. Pitcher Frank “Doc” Sykes, later a dentist, is pictured top row, first right. Owner Ed Bolden is suited in straw hat.

Brooklyn Royal Giants

Managed by cafe owner J.W. Connors (TR, 1R), this team’s pitching attack was led by Frank “Doc” Sykes (TR, center), a dentist from Howard Medical School. Their offensive attack was led by Louis “Big Bertha” Santop (BR,1L).

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