Priscilla Johnson sent in this amazingly sharp and clear photograph of a town team in Chesterton, Indiana, in 1913. It has come down to her from her grandparents, who lived there until the 1950s. She was wondering in particular about the black player on the far left of the middle row with the catcher’s mitt:
I don’t recognize him, but of course there were plenty of black professional players around that time whose photos we don’t have.
Chesterton is a small town in Porter County on Lake Michigan. It’s possible that he was a local, although he may also have been a professional or semipro player brought in from somewhere else.
I couldn’t find anything about the Chesterton team, but I was able to find a couple of cases in the Midwest where a black catcher played for what was apparently otherwise an all-white team. At a Fourth of July tournament in 1911 in Brazil, Indiana (outside Terre Haute), the Jasonville team’s catcher suffered heat exhaustion and a local “colored catcher” named “Piggy” Johnson had to step in.
(Brazil Daily Times, July 5, 1911, p. 1)
And in 1915, the Nokomis, Illinois, town team featured “the famous colored catcher, Norman Robinson.”
(Daily Illinois State Register, May 27, 1915, p. 8)
Often, a black catcher might imply a black pitcher too—but in these cases evidently not.
Of course, it’s impossible to know (for now) whether Piggy Johnson or Norman Robinson had any connection to the Chesterton ball team of 1913. If anybody knows anything or has any ideas, let me know.