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.
Check out Gary Cieradkowski’s new card for William“Hippo”Galloway, a Canadian who was the first black man to play in a professional* hockey league, and the last black man to play (openly) in organized baseball until Jackie Robinson.
UPDATE 2/21/2013 *-The Central Ontario Hockey Association was amateur (at least officially); openly professional hockey didn’t start until a few years later. The Canadian League was a professional baseball league, though.
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.
Gary has got the Pete Hill Card Set fresh from the printer, and they look absolutely fantastic. He’s also offering a special extra card, featuring Pete in a 1906 Philadelphia Giants “World’s Champions” uniform (the Giants claimed the world baseball championship for 1905), if you order by December 31.
I’ve teamed up with Gary Cieradkowski (of Infinite Baseball Cards fame) and Ron Hill to produce a special set of Pete Hill cards. We’ve painstakingly researched Pete’s career to create 15 cards that tell his story from his early days with the semipro Pittsburgh Keystones, through his heyday with the powerhouse Philadelphia Giants, Chicago American Giants, and Havana Reds, to his stints as player-manager with the Detroit Stars and Baltimore Black Sox. We’ve also put together his playing statistics against Negro league, Cuban, and white major league teams.
If you read this blog you know Gary’s art, and you know the care and attention he puts into getting every detail as accurate as possible. It’s a beautiful set of cards, and in my opinion one of the best things he’s done. This set is also in a class by itself—I don’t think there has ever been a project focusing on one Negro league player like this.
They’re available for pre-order here—in fact, they ought to be shipping fairly soon, so you should be able to get your set(s) in plenty of time for the holidays.
Like other delightful mutations that have come as a result of foreign artisans dipping into the American popular culture trough (i.e., contemporary, West African, hand-painted barber shop signs that depict hairstyles last seen on the ‘80s R&B stars, Boys II Men; or the surf guitar that pops up in the middle of a Bollywood musical), Japanese baseball cards take the basic idea of a baseball card and turn it into something new and uniquely Japanese.
Unfortunately from about 1970 it seems that Japanese cards increasingly imitated their blander American cousins. I wonder if there is any chance of a revival...
A while back David Lawrence sent me this image of Luis Padrón, from his 1910 Punch Cigars card (a series that also included Pete Hill). It is, as David put it, “a particularly distinguished portrait.” It would have gone well with my article on Padrón in Base Ball, had I remembered it.
Something I ran across today: the two Pete Hill baseball cards issued in his lifetime, both in Cuba, one in 1910 for Punch Cigars, the other in 1909 as part of the Cabañas set. The sets were issued to commemorate the American Series appearances of the Detroit Tigers (1909 and 1910) and Philadelphia A’s (1910).
By the way: this guy (“Ramon Herrara”) is Ramón Herrera. Herrera actually started the 1922 season on the Bridgeport Americans, also of the Eastern League, alongside Cuban Hall of Famer Joseíto Rodríguez, though it evidently didn’t show up in the guides. He must have played very little with Bridgeport (fewer than ten games) before moving to Springfield.
Herrera and Claudio Manela thus joined the Eastern League from the Negro National League at the same time, though Manela didn’t stick. Both were nicknamed “Mike,” for whatever reason. (At least Mike González was actually named Miguel.)