Nit-picking time. This fine article about the lefthanded pitcher Jimmy Claxton, the mixed-race native of British Columbia who managed to sneak across the color line briefly with the Oakland Oaks in 1916 by passing as Indian, says that Claxton was the “first black man on a baseball card” (a claim echoed in the B-R Bullpen). Tom Hawthorn’s brief SABR biography of Claxton calls him “the first African-American baseball player to be depicted on a baseball card.” Claxton’s brief time with the Oaks coincided with the Zeenut candy company’s schedule for putting together its PCL card set that spring, and so he wound up on this now (relatively) famous card:
But I think this claim ought to be adjusted to read, “first African-American player on an American baseball card.” Because the first black men on baseball cards were in the Cabañas card set of 1909, printed in Cuba to commemorate the Detroit Tigers’ visit to Havana that fall, and two of them were Americans: Pete Hill and Bruce Petway.
Then a year later Punch Cigarros put out a set of cards that included, in addition to the many players of Afro-Cuban heritage, Hill and Petway again, along with John Henry Lloyd and possibly Grant Johnson (though this last one is unconfirmed; evidently no examples have been found).
All these predate the Zeenut Claxton card, though that still gets priority among American baseball cards.
Also, check out my friend Gary Cieradkowski’s Jimmy Claxton card. And, of course, our amazing Pete Hill Card Set!