adventures in baseball archeology: the negro leagues, latin american baseball, j-ball, the minors, the 19th century, and other hidden, overlooked, or unknown corners of baseball history...with occasional forays into other sports
Back in August, it was announced that the baseball historian Bernard McKenna had discovered the first known aerial photograph of Maryland Baseball Park, home of the Baltimore Black Sox from about 1921 through 1931. The photograph was taken in 1927. Before McKenna found this, the precise location of the park had been unknown.
Courtesy of Kevin Johnson, here are some “very rough” dimensions for Maryland Park, calculated by Ron Selter:
LF 390 LC 440 CF 440 RC 390 RF 250 Backstop 80
The same photograph also revealed, two blocks south of Maryland Park, the location of Westport Park, the original home field of the Black Sox in the 1910s.
Over at the NLBPA message board there has been an off-and-on thread for a few months about Blainey Hall, the Lincoln Giants and Baltimore Black Sox outfielder from the 1910s and 1920s. Some of his relatives have been involved in the discussion, so I thought I’d post the few documents I know about related to Hall.
Here is his World War II draft card, where he has reversed his first and middle names (not an uncommon practice), possibly because he normally went by his middle name. He is also younger here, giving a birth year of 1889 instead of 1886. This is also a very common pattern; many, many people gave older ages in the World War I draft than in other official records.
(Btw, the reverse sides of Maryland’s World War II cards are currently unavailable.)
Going backward and forward in time from these two documents, in the 1900 census I was able to find Blaine Hall, born January 1888 in Maryland, living in Baltimore with his parents Caleb and Sarah (presumably the Sarah Hall listed as his nearest relative on both draft cards), a sister, Mary E., and a brother, William.
Lastly, in the Social Security Death Index, there is a James Hall, born 17 January 1889, with a Social Security number issued in Maryland, who died in Baltimore in March 1975.
Patrick Rock has found three more brief portraits of Baltimore Black Sox players published in the Afro-American in 1924: Connie Day (February 22), Bill Force (February 29), and O’Neal Pullen (March 7). I missed these the first time around. After being alerted by Patrick, I was able to find two more, for Bob McClure (March 14) and Percy Wilson (March 21).
The Force bio is a little scanty; the Pullen, Day, and Wilson biographies are probably sources for their entries in Riley’s Biographical Encyclopedia (though Wilson’s gives a birth year of 1899, rather than the 1889 in Riley). The McClure item, however, has some new (and conflicting) information, including details about his baseball career in Texas in 1917-19, and a much earlier birthdate of March 24, 1891 (Riley has 1903). McClure’s bio, moreover, is in the first person (“started my baseball career in Beaumont...”), a clue that most of the information in these pieces probably came from the players themselves.
Something else interesting about the McClure piece: he says he played for the “Beaumont team in the Texas League in 1917.” Could there have been an organized Negro League in Texas then? It so happens that a team called the “Texas All-Stars” (also referred to as the “Texas League Stars” and the “Texas Stars”) visited both Indianapolis and Chicago in late July, 1917; the team featured future Negro Leaguers Jelly Gardner in left, Edgar Wesley at first, and Henry Blackman at third. In Chicago, host Rube Foster (himself a Texan) held a special “Texas Day” to attract migrants from the state to the American Giants’ ballpark. (The Texas All-Stars, by the way, dropped two games to the ABCs and three to Foster’s club.)