A few years ago I wrote about the baseball career of Jim Hugh Moss, a man who was executed for murder in Georgia in 1928 on what certainly seems to be dubious evidence (including the phrenological investigations of the governor of Georgia, Lamartine Griffin Hardman).
At the time of his death, Moss was identified by several sources as having played for the “Chicago Giants.” While I haven’t found a player named Moss with Joe Green’s Chicago Giants (or either of the Union Giants clubs active at the time), a pitcher named Moss did throw a few innings for the Chicago American Giants in early 1918. In 1919 a pitcher/outfielder named Moss captained the obscure Havana Stars of Chicago. Then, from 1920 to 1922, another pitcher/outfielder named Moss played for various teams in the Negro Southern League.
While it is possible to connect Jim Hugh Moss to the “Moss” who played in Chicago due to the newspaper reports at the time of Jim Hugh’s death, I wasn’t entirely sure that the NSL Moss was the same person, though it seemed likely.
Luckily, just this year William J. Plott published his book The Negro Southern League: A Baseball History, 1920-1951. In it he reports that Moss of the NSL was known as “Jimmy Moss,” which seems like a pretty good indication that we’re looking at one person from 1918 through 1922, in both Chicago and the South.
So that’s one additional piece of evidence. Here’s another. In his book, Plott reprints a marvelous photograph of the 1920 Montgomery Grey Sox (courtesy of James Hannon, who I am guessing is a relative of Henry Hannon):
Standing second from left is “Moss, p.”
Let’s compare this Moss to the photo of Jim Hugh Moss from the Atlanta Constitution, published in August, 1928.
Hmmm. At first glance they look like completely different people. And at second and third glance, too.
It is important to keep in mind that 1) the two photos show their faces at different angles and with different lighting, and that 2) the quality of both images is quite poor. I blew up the Jimmy Moss photo until it started to pixelate. The Jim Hugh Moss picture is a digitized version of a microfilmed newspaper photo. So much detail is obscured on his right side that the image could, I suppose, end up being badly misleading.
Frankly, I doubt it. The most I will commit to is that I don’t think you can totally rule out the possibility that they are the same person. What we really need are better-quality images. I’d guess that it’s possible to get a much higher-res version of the Montgomery Grey Sox photo, and also that an actual print of the Jim Hugh Moss photo (or even a negative) still exists somewhere.
In the meantime, it’s worth noting that the Montgomery Grey Sox, who fought for the pennant with the Knoxville Giants, were an awfully talented team. Their roster included George Scales, Sam Streeter, Deacon Meyers, Poindexter Williams, Charles “Two Sides” Wesley, and Marion “Daddy” Cunningham—all future Negro National Leaguers.
And I think I can identify another player. According to a caption that accompanies the photo, standing third from left, next to Jimmy Moss, is “Patton,” the team’s assistant manager.
He looks an awful lot like James Patton of the 1909 Philadelphia Giants:
I don’t know anything about Patton, even his correct first name (he’s James in a couple of newspaper sources ca. 1909, but “John Patton” is written on the photo below, taken at the same time as the Giants team photo)—yet it seems like a pretty good bet that this is the same guy a few years later, helping to manage the 1920 Montgomery Grey Sox.