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.
Nearly a year ago I posted what might have been (then) the earliest known mention of Bill Jackman in a baseball context, as a Houston pitcher brought north to play for the semi-pro St. Louis Tigers in 1922.
Bill Mullins (as he pointed out in the comments to the St. Louis Tigers post) has found at least two earlier references to Jackman as a pitcher for the Houston Black Buffaloes of the Texas Colored League in 1921.
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 26, 1921)
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 6, 1921)
Of the Houston players Thomas Calloway, William Hines, Lawson Perry, and Jackman would all come north to join the St. Louis Tigers in 1922, as would Thomas Gee of Fort Worth, while Houston third baseman Lunie Danage played for the St. Louis Giants in 1920. “Bailey” of Fort Worth might be Bob Bailey, who would be in Philadelphia by late April 1921 trying to wrest the second base position from Bunny Downs, while “Jones” might be Ruben Jones of several later NNL teams. “Steel Arm Johnnie” Harris was pitching for the Brooklyn Royal Giants by May. Harris later joined the Lincoln Giants, and was badly hurt in a train accident involving the team in 1922. His injuries may have put an end to his career (though I am not certain).
Here is (possibly) the earliest mention found so far of Will Jackman in a baseball context. In 1922 a semi-pro team called the St. Louis Tigers took over the grounds formerly occupied by the St. Louis Giants, and, led by their manager, W.C. Wiley of Galveston, Texas, imported a bunch of players from the Texas Colored League and elsewhere. “William Jackman, Houston, p,” appears in the tenth line from the bottom. (Apologies for the faint image.)
(St. Louis Argus, April 14, 1922, p. 10)
There a few other players of note here, such as Thomas Gee (brother of Richard Gee), who would later catch for the Lincoln Giants and Newark Stars of the Eastern Colored League, and James “Baby” or “Babe” White, who I believe appeared briefly for the St. Louis Stars later in 1922. As far as I can tell, Jackman didn’t stick with the team for long.
Anyway, I wish Dick Thompson were around so I could ask him about it.
As always, thanks to Patrick Rock for the great material from the St. Louis Argus.
UPDATE 2/9/2009 Per Bijan Bayne’s request in comments, here are the players for the St. Louis Tigers, as listed in the article above:
“Jas. “Baby” White, formerly with Beaumont Oilers, 2b; Elisha Warren, Galveston Sand Crabs, 3b; William Hines, Houston Buffaloes, 1b; Robert Davis, All Nations, p; Chas. Hunter, Beaumont, outfield; William Jackman, Houston, p; Lawson Perry, ss; Thomas Calloway and Lloyd Evans, outfield, all from Houston; Thos. Gee, c, and Curtis Boyce, p, from the Galveston Sand Crabs.”
Here is the World War II draft card for Burlin White, Bill Jackman’s longtime battery mate. Check out the team he’s managing: the Boston World Giants (I’d guess some variation on the old “All-Nations” concept). Dick Thompson was particularly delighted by this detail.
Here are two articles about Bill Jackman sent to me by Dick Thompson on December 27, both of which suggest that Jackman spent some time in Cuba. Dick had found several references to the Philadelphia Colored Giants traveling to Cuba in the 1920s, though nothing very specific, and he was very interested in finding out whether such a trip really happened.
The first article is from the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald. The date’s blurry, but it looks like September 15, 1945 1943, to me (internal evidence, including Jackman’s age as reported in the piece, seems to indicate that it might be 1945 1943). In this one we read that John McGraw “once flirted with the idea of sending Jackman to Cuba and importing him as a Cuban hurler.”
The second is also from the Portsmouth Herald ( July 9, 1948). Now Jackman is said to have actually gone to Cuba and spent an entire winter season there, following which the Senators, believing he was Cuban, nearly signed him:
I’ll be looking into these stories during the coming year. If anybody happens to know anything about Jackman or his team in Cuba (or about Jackman’s supposed close brush with the Senators and/or McGraw), drop me a line.
Still plugging away on Jackman. I now have about 230 wins in the database. The goal for 2008 is to get over 300. I also am just about at 3,000 recorded strikeouts. I was originally thinking he may have had 8,000 career but now think 10,000 is possible. No way I will be able to document that though, but I do think it feasible.
On December 27 he sent me some clippings on Jackman to post here; I’ll be putting them up over the weekend. In the meantime here is a link to the biographies he wrote for SABR’s Baseball Biography Project; and here’s a thread devoted to Dick at Baseball Fever.
If you haven’t seen it, you should check out Dick Thompson’s article, “Cannonball Bill Jackman: Baseball’s Great Unknown,” in the latest issue of National Pastime. (Also see in the same issue: Bill Young on “Ray Brown in Canada,” and Peter Bjarkman on “Retiring Clemente’s ‘21’.”) Dick’s piece, part of an enormous project to document Jackman’s thirty-year-plus career, puts the spotlight on two little-studied areas of research: professional black ballplayers outside the Negro Leagues, and black baseball in New England. Jackman pitched professionally from at least 1920 to 1953, mostly for New England-based teams, but spent only 1935 in the organized Negro Leagues (with the Brooklyn Eagles).
Dick notes that Jackman, in his Hall of Fame questionnaire, put his birth date and place as October 7, 1897, in Carta, Texas, though at other times “he said he was unsure of the exact circumstances of his birth,” and census information seems to give conflicting birth years of 1894 and 1897. Here, as a kind of addendum to Dick’s article, is Jackman’s World War I draft card:
I’m not exactly sure where Carta, Texas, is; but Carta Valley, Texas, is in Edwards County, near (though not adjacent to) Hays County, the location of Kyle.
And here is Jackman’s World War II draft card, front and back:
In 1917 he only knew the month (October) of his birth, but it appears that he eventually settled on October 7 as his birthday, with the year varying from 1895 to 1897.