In the February 24, 1917, issue of the Indianapolis Freeman, Dave Wyatt put together a piece called “Death in the Game,” in which he listed prominent black ballplayers who had died in the previous ten years. Wyatt was puzzled by what he called the “dark mystery” of the leading cause of these deaths, tuberculosis: “[E]very man,” he wrote, “was near perfection in build, physically strong, not a weakling in the list.” Moreover, ballplayers “get plenty of fresh air,” stay at “first-class hotels,” enjoy “good food and a variety to choose from,” and their profession keeps them healthy and outdoors. The only explanation he could come up with was to finger “overwork” and “dissipation” as the prime suspects, while noting that “[t]he per cent of college players who die of the disease after taking to baseball is too small to attract attention.”
Below I’ve done my best to reproduce the list exactly as Wyatt gave it, though a few things are blurry. I would have scanned the article in, but the Freeman 1917-18 reel I was able to borrow was filmed slightly out of focus, and it would not be very legible.
Wyatt lists, in order, the player’s name, his cause of death, his team, and the place of his death (but not the date).
Wm. Brown—Heart failure, Union Giants, Chicago.
Brooks—Heart failure, Page Fence, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Leon Boles—Tuberculosis, Union Leland Giants [sic], Kansas City.
Wm. Bowman—Tuberculosis, Leland Philadelphia Giants [sic], Corcopolis, Pa.
S. Butler—Tuberculosis, Hot Springs Arlingtons, Little Rock.
R. Butler—Heart failure, Hot Springs Arlingtons, Little Rock.
Chenault—Heart failure, French Lick, Evansville.
C. Collier—Gunshot, Hot Springs Arlingtons, Hot Springs.
J. Williams—Pneumonia, Union Giants, Chicago.
F. White—Pneumonia, Union Giants, Chicago.
P. Reed—Heart failure, St. Paul Gophers, St. Paul.
F. Dixon—Heart failure, Paducah Giants, Paducah.
D. Howard—Gunshot, Cuban X Giants, East Liverpool, O.
Hayman—Violence, Philadelphia Giants, Norfolk, Va.
Bedford—Lightning, Cuban Giants, Louisville.
Spinner—Injury, Kansas Giants, Kansas City, Kas.
Monroe—Pneumonia, A. B. C.’s Kansas City, Indianapolis.
J. Miller—Heart failure, Union Giants, Omaha.
Richardson—Tuberculosis, Union Giants, Topeka.
Z. Partilla—Tuberculosis, Hot Springs Arlingtons, Hot Springs.
E. Lockhart—Gunshot, Cuban Giants, Athens, O.
Wm. Randolph—Tuberculosis, Philadelphia Giants, Columbus, O.
C. Lyons—Tuberculosis, Columbia Giants, Dayton, O.
A. Ross—Heart failure, Leland Giants, Chicago.
L. Pollard—Suffocation, Illinois Giants, Chicago.
R. Wilson—Insanity, Cuban X Giants, Chicago.
George Wilson—Insanity, Page Fence Giants, Palmyra, Mich.
Turner—Gunshot, A. B. C.’s, C. Giants, Chicago.
J. Wright—Knife wound, Union Giants, Chicago.
G. [illegible, starts with “R”]—Tuberculosis, Illinois Giants, Chicago.
R. [could be “B”] Washington—Tuberculosis, Paducah Giants, Memphis.
Wm. Monroe—Tuberculosis, American Giants, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Wm. Lindsey [sic]—Tuberculosis, American Giants, Kansas City.
F. Leland—Tuberculosis, Chicago Leland Giants, Chicago.
D. Talbert—Tuberculosis, Leland Giants, Omaha.
T. Morgan—Tuberculosis, Union Giants, Momence, Ill.
C. Huff—Tuberculosis, Hot Springs Arlingtons, Hot Springs.
Wm. Jackson—Tuberculosis, Cuban X Giants, New York.
UPDATE 2/5/2008 Edited to clean up some crappy writing and confused tenses.
UPDATE 2/8/2008 “Chenault” is John Chenault of the French Lick Plutos, discussed in this post on Rafael Figarola (toward the end). Also check out this post on Bill Monroe’s death, and this one on Bill Lindsay’s. George Wilson is, of course, discussed here and here (and Ray Wilson is briefly mentioned), thanks to Todd Peterson and Joe Niese. “P. Reed” is Phil “Daddy” Reid, owner of the St. Paul Gophers (and not a player as far as I know). See Todd Peterson’s great article on the Gophers in the latest Baseball Research Journal for more on Reid.