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.
Just wanted to point out this beautiful image of the 1904 Philadelphia Giants, which John Thorn has posted at least a couple of times (most recently in this entry on Sol White).
To my knowledge, the photograph was first published in the September 2, 1904, issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer (though one wonders if it didn’t first appear in the pages of The Item, the paper that employed the Giants’ owner Walter Schlichter).
Since when I originally noticed this photograph much of my interest came from its status as the earliest known photograph of Pete Hill, here’s a closeup of him:
I’m not sure under what category professional ballplayer would be listed (not the “professions,” which I think would mean mostly medicine, law, education, and the pulpit). Most likely there weren’t any black professional ballplayers in Georgia at the turn of the century. There weren’t that many in the county at large, at best a few dozen, probably—though there would have been many, many semi-professional or amateur players, of course.
In the 1900 U.S. Census, I’ve located a total of nine. I wouldn’t claim that this is anything like a comprehensive accounting, since my research mostly focuses on later eras, and it’s not actually that easy to search my notes for exactly this information. But here are the black men I’ve found in the 1900 census whose occupation is listed as ballplayer:
Sherman Barton (listed as a “Base Ballist,” a phrase that would have sounded antique even in 1900) John Bingey (sic; could be the same as William Binga) Harry Buckner Peter Burns, a key figure in the Tokohama affair Charles Grant, “Tokohama” himself William Holland Grant Johnson John Patterson Solomon White
For whatever reason, all lived in Chicago as of June, 1900, when the census was enumerated, except for Barton, who lived in Normal, Illinois, and Johnson, who appeared in his hometown, Findlay, Ohio. All played for the Columbia Giants or Chicago Unions around this time.
Occupations of Charles Grant and Solomon White as listed in the 1900 U.S. Census.
Walter Ball can be found living in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he was playing professional ball, but in the census he is listed as a “R. R. Porter.” A couple of guys who might be Bill Monroe can be found in Chicago, but aren’t listed as ballplayers. The 17-year-old Pete Hill, who by some accounts started playing professionally in 1899, is listed as a “day laborer” in Pittsburgh. Many others who were definitely professionals at the time, especially in the East, can’t be found for certain in the census, including nearly the whole roster of the Cuban X Giants (Frank Grant, Clarence Williams, etc.). It seems likely that the Cubans were on the road and were missed by the census takers.
Going beyond the census, I’ve found one official document that lists a black man’s occupation as ballplayer in 1900: the death certificate of Andrew Jackson, who had been for several years the third baseman and captain of the Cuban X Giants. Jackson, who had led his team on a Cuban tour a few months earlier, died of heart failure at the age of 34 in New York City on May 15, 1900. (Apologies for the poor quality of the image.)
In the sideways portion of the form at the bottom we are given Jackson’s profession:
I have to say I know virtually nothing about Andrew Jackson, or for that matter about the Cuban X Giants, which seem to be one of the least written about great teams in African-American baseball history.
One of the least-known of the early great black ballplayers, Monroe died in 1915 in his late thirties. The place of his death has been variously reported; Riley has it as Chicago, where Monroe had long been a mainstay of Rube Foster’s teams; other sources have it that he died in California while touring with the American Giants.
In fact, he died in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at his parents’ home, on March 16, 1915. Here is the Defender’s coverage of his death (March 20, 1915):
William S. Monroe was born in Tennessee, probably in 1877, to Archie (or Archey) S. and Rosa Monroe; his father was a minister. The family can be found in the 1880 census in Knox County, Tennessee, with “Willie,” aged two, the youngest of five children. At his death in March, 1915, the Defender gave his age as 38.
In the 1910 census, Monroe, having played professional baseball in Chicago since 1896, is back with his family, now in Chattanooga. Phil Dixon has written of Monroe’s on-the-field antics and trash talk; check out the occupation listed for him in the census (first column is the “particular kind of work done by this person,” second column is the “general nature of the industry” in which he is employed:
That’s right; Bill Monroe’s job, as he reported it to the census taker, was “champion base ball player.”