William Vandeveer Myers was a catcher and infielder for the Brooklyn Royal Giants and Cuban Giants in the early 1910s. I don’t know much about him: he was versatile, it seems, and probably not a great player, though he was still playing professionally as late as 1921. That year he joined a travelling team in the upper Midwest called the Calgary Black Sox, managed by the blackball veteran and World War I hero Sam Gordon, and featuring Frank Duncan (the elder) and Bobby Anderson, among others. Myers may also have appeared briefly that year for the Cleveland Tate Stars, an associate member of the Negro National League. (Incidentally, Myers’s biographical information at the Seamheads Negro Leagues DB will be updated soon—this is brand-new research.)
(Chicago Defender, April 23, 1921, p. 11)But here’s the interesting part. William Myers can be found in the 1910 census, still living (as a 23-year-old) with his family at 2397 Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn. (By the way, it’s spelled “Meyers” here, but I’ve confirmed “Myers” from other documents, including William’s World War I and World War II draft cards.)
Then, look at the occupations listed for the members of the Myers household:
That’s William in line #16: “Proffessional [sic] Ballplayer,” employed at a “Ball Ground.” But wait—the person in line #17 has exactly the same entry. According to the census, William’s younger sister, Leonda Myers, was also a professional ballplayer.
Black women played professional baseball long before Toni Stone, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, and Connie Morgan joined the declining Negro leagues in the 1950s. In the 19th century the Dolly Vardens were supposed to have played professionally in the Philadelphia area. A while back I found this item, from 1917, about a black Chicago semipro team called the Fast Havana Stars, captained by Stanley Beckwith (brother of John Beckwith), and starring a female first baseman named Pearl Barrett:
(Chicago Defender, May 12, 1917, p. 5)
But I don’t think I’ve ever seen an official document (from the Jim Crow era) that lists a black woman as a professional ballplayer. There’s always the possibility that this is a mistake of some kind, that the census taker accidentally wrote Bill Myers’s occupation twice (or something), but if it’s not an error, there might be a pretty interesting story waiting to be told about Leonda Myers and her early 20th-century baseball career.
UPDATE 5:18 p.m. I spoke too soon. “Leonda Myers” turns out to be Leander Thompson Myers, a male World War I vet and evidently pro baseball player, born July 3, 1889, died December 28, 1953. It seems that census takers had trouble understanding his first name; in the 1900 census he was listed as “Elendor Myers,” and at first listed as “F” and “daughter”, which was then overwritten with “M” and “son”: