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
James Tate sent me this photo a while back (almost two years ago, actually). I was able to confirm for him that the Almendares player on the right was definitely the father of Omara Portuondo. But the guy on the left (probably an Habana player), trying to crack him up? I had no idea.
Now I see that this Telemundo photo gallery has identified the jokester as Bienvenido Jiménez. Can’t say I’ve ever heard much about “Hooks” Jiménez as a person, so this gives us a welcome glimpse of an early player as something other than a blurry face or a name in a box score.
The 1911 Chicago Union Giants panoramic postcard that Brian Campf sent me recently reminds of another fantastic Union Giants image, this one a broadside shown to me by Jason Miller last year. I was going to post it then, but other things got in the way, and I never got around to it. So, with apologies to Jason, here it is at last:
On the bottom it says “Will Play at Rockford July 8.” That could refer to Rockford, Illinois, where the Union Giants regularly played circa 1910-1911, although I haven’t found a Union Giants game reported on exactly that date during those years. (It might also refer to other Rockfords, such as the one in Minnesota or the one in Michigan.)
Here’s a detail of the team:
Jason was unsure of the exact year of the broadside and the identities of the players, and I couldn’t help him much at the time. But comparison with Brian’s postcard, which has been definitively dated to September 6, 1911, shows that several of the same players appear in both—so Jason’s broadside must date from sometime around 1911, though maybe not that year precisely. Here are the ones whose identity we can be pretty sure of (1911 postcard on left, undated broadside on right):
Bob Gilkerson, who played for the Union Giants from 1909 to 1916 (in 1917 he founded the Lost Island Giants, and in 1919 Gilkerson’s Union Giants). He was captain of the Union Giants in 1911 and 1912.
The presence of Jenkins and Harvey in the broadside would narrow down its date to 1910 to 1912.
Of the other players we’ve identified in Brian’s postcard, Albert Toney and Haywood Rose seem to have played for the Union Giants only in 1911 (Rose is listed on a Union Giants roster once in 1912, but I haven’t found a box score showing him playing for the team.) Neither of them seems (to me) to be in Jason’s broadside—which would be an indication that the broadside might date from 1910 and 1912, but probably not 1911. (Although Toney joined the team partway through the 1911 season.)
There are four players who probably appear on Brian’s 1911 postcard who aren’t matched to a specific face:
At least two of these still-unidentified players are also on the 1910-1912 broadside (again, 1911 postcard on left, undated broadside on right):
Lee, Ramsey, and Jackson all appeared for the Union Giants in 1910, but not Alexander (as far as I know); Guy Jackson and Ed Lee didn’t play for the Union Giants in 1912, but Ramsey and Alexander did. Given that two of these four appear in the broadside, that would seem to be an indication that the broadside dates from 1912, as the 1912 Union Giants shared only two of these players with the 1911 edition, while the 1910 Union Giants had three of them. If the broadside shows the 1912 team, then the two players pictured above might be Ramsey and Alexander, though which is which is still unknown.
I might also have a line on one of the unknown players in Jason’s 1910-1912 broadside, a player holding a catcher’s mitt (at right).
In 1910 and 1911 Gordon and Washington caught for the Union Giants; in 1910 there’s a third one, usually identified in the box scores as “B. Jones” (to distinguish him from outfielder Willis Jones). (I haven’t found his first name yet.)
And the 1912 Union Giants also used a third catcher. An article by Bob Gilkerson in the March 16, 1912, issue of The Freeman (Indianapolis), mentions the presence of “Armstroad [sic], the St. Paul Gophers’ reliable catcher,” who “will help old warhorse Gordon to cut off the men from pilfering bases.” He’s referring to George “Mule” Armstrong, who did indeed catch for the Union Giants that season. Here’s a comparison of the unidentified player with the catcher’s mitt from Jason’s broadside (on the left) with the only two photos I have of Mule Armstrong (on the right).
The catcher in the broadside looks intriguingly similar to the first picture of Armstrong (in the middle), but not so much to the second one, and in any case the eyebrows are a problem, in my opinion.
If Armstrong is in the broadside, that would be a very solid reason to think that it dates from 1912 rather than 1910—but I can’t go there just yet. Careful work might just tell us for sure, and might also help to sort out the unidentified players on Brian’s 1911 postcard.
Lastly, there’s one player I can identify in Jason’s broadside who is not in Brian’s 1911 postcard.
This is, I believe, a catcher named William Washington. The picture of Washington on the right is from this 1908 postcard of the Union Giants, which is also from Brian Campf. Washington played for the Union Giants earlier in 1911, but was apparently not with the team in the Upper Peninsula in September. He was also with the team for part of 1912. So his presence in the broadside is not inconsistent with either 1910 or 1912.
Check out this amazing panoramic postcard from Brian Campf:
This was taken in the town of Daggett, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on September 6, 1911, the day of a game between W. S. Peters’s Chicago Union Giants and the local Daggett team. The Union Giants are the ten players on the right.
Thanks to some detective work by Brian, Todd Peterson, Larry Lester, and myself, we’ve identified six of the ten Union Giants. Here’s the box score for the Daggett game, which Brian obtained from the Menominee County Library:
This gives us nine of the Union Giants players. What about the tenth? The Union Giants played a doubleheader in Escanaba, Michigan, two days earlier, on Labor Day (September 4, 1911). Here are the box scores (courtesy of Todd):
(Escanaba Morning Press, September 6, 1911, p.8)
Here we have the same nine players as in Daggett, plus a tenth: the pitcher Hub Alexander. To return to Brian’s postcard:
There remain four players whose faces we can’t match to names (4, 5, 6, and 8): Ed Lee (outfielder), Guy Jackson (third baseman), Mack Ramsey (outfielder), and (possibly) Hub Alexander (pitcher). If anybody has any ideas about which is which, let me know.
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:
The team didn’t fare that well, unfortunately. The 37-year-old Wells did what he could, batting .295, and Formental (.312, 63 walks in 90 games) and McHenry (17-10 for both Tampico and Mexico City’s Red Devils) contributed; but Castro, probably the top slugger of the Mexican League’s early years, slumped to .248 with only nine homers, and Hunter won a grand total of three games for three different teams that summer. Wells was replaced as manager by Santos Amaro before the season was over, and Los Alijadores finished in fourth place with a 41-48 record.
Here’s a closeup of Wells:
And here are a couple of Formental photos, also from Brian, one of them signed:
Hake’s has put up for auction a rather amazing piece from the Richard Merkin collection. It’s astonishing, a one of a kind artifact: a montage of numerous photos of Negro league players from the 1910s, many of them images I’ve never seen before, including some fairly obscure players. It’s dominated by pictures of Louis Santop (14 individual images in all, not counting the team photos).
The montage’s history seems completely unknown; Hake’s speculates that it was perhaps made for Santop himself. At the top and bottom are a number of team photos; the center is filled with photos of individual players, many from Palm Beach, Florida, winter baseball in the mid-1910s. There are also a number of players in Indianapolis ABCs uniforms, which might also be from one of the team’s sojourns in Florida.
I would love to see a large, high-resolution image of this montage printed on a fold-out sheet in a coffee-table book. Come to think of it, I’d like to see a well-designed Negro league coffee table book, period. There are a number of smaller books of photos, particularly the fine Black Baseball in… series, with volumes on Kansas City, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. But possibly the only publication that really qualifies as a Negro league coffee-table book would be Phil Dixon’s The Negro Baseball Leagues: A Photographic History—and that is, I believe, out of print. There are hundreds—maybe thousands—of great images that are scattered around in other books, on the internet, and in collections.
Fred Long was a Detroit Stars outfielder in the early 1920s who went on to become a legendary college football coach. I had never seen a photograph of Long, but recently ran across this in a July 10, 1948, story about Long in the Chicago Defender:
Then I checked this very familiar photograph of the 1920 Detroit Stars, in which several players remain unidentified:
You may have noticed that this player has been identified as Ben’s older brother Steel Arm Johnny Taylor in more than one source. In fact, I originally used this very picture to illustrate John Taylor in the Negro Leagues DB.
This photo has been published several times, notably in Phil Dixon’s The Negro Baseball Leagues: A Photographic History (1992) and Dick Clark and Larry Lester’s The Negro Leagues Book (1994). In both books the player is identified as Steel Arm Taylor, probably for a couple of reasons:
1) He has been labeled “Taylor P.” John Taylor is the only one of the Taylor brothers now remembered as primarily a pitcher, so it makes sense this would be him.
2) There’s a report in the June 27, 1912, New York Age that the Lincolns had signed “Steel Arm Taylor” of the previous year’s St. Louis Giants, and that he then pitched the Lincolns to a victory over the Pittsburgh Giants on June 23.
However, I’ve become quite certain that the Lincoln Giants’ “Taylor P” is really Ben. Here's why:
1) It simply looks more like Ben Taylor, at least to me. Here are a few photos of Ben from various sources:
Meanwhile here are a couple of solidly ID’d photos of Johnny Taylor:
2) His height is wrong for Johnny Taylor. In the Lincoln Giants photo, he’s obviously taller than Spottswood Poles, who’s standing next to him, and comparable in height to Judy Gans. On their World War II draft cards Poles is listed (generously, I’d say) at 5’9” and Gans is 5’11”. John Boyce Taylor, meanwhile, is 5’5 ½”. I don’t have a draft card for Ben, but a photo of the four Taylor brothers standing together printed in the Indianapolis Freeman in 1910 shows that John was clearly several inches shorter than Ben (and C. I.), and about the same height as Candy Jim Taylor (whose draft card has him at 5’5”).
L to R: James Allen Taylor, John Boyce Taylor, Charles Isham Taylor, Benjamin Harrison Taylor
(Indianapolis Freeman, April 16, 1910)
In the following photo of the 1914 Indianapolis A.B.C.s, Steel Arm Johnny is standing on the far left, next to Dicta Johnson, who was 5’7” according to his draft card. Ben, meanwhile, is standing next to Edgar Burch, who was 5’10”.
In this photo of the 1909 St. Paul Gophers (from Todd Peterson's great book Early Black Baseball in Minnesota, but originally published in the same issue of the Freeman as the Taylor brothers photo, in fact on the same page), Steel Arm Johnny is standing on the far left.
Also look back at the photo of the 1910 Chicago Giants I posted the other day--John Taylor is standing, third from left, clearly shorter than Walter Ball and Harry Moore and about the same height as Bobby Winston (5’6”).
3) It’s now largely forgotten that Ben was primarily known as a pitcher in 1912. It probably wasn’t until he joined the A.B.C.s in 1914 that he definitively became known as a first baseman above all.
4) John Taylor was pitching for the West Baden Sprudels from late June to late August, the same time I have “Taylor” documented in Lincoln Giants box scores. There’s no doubt about the identity of the Sprudels’ pitcher—he’s referred to several times as “Steel Arm,” or “J. B. Taylor,” or “Johnny Taylor.” The New York Age claimed that “Steel Arm Taylor” pitched for the Lincoln Giants on June 23, 1912, but “J. B. Taylor” was the winning pitcher for the Sprudels in Indiana on June 30. I suspect the Age simply mistook Ben for Steel Arm, or wrongly applied the nickname to Ben (both had pitched for St. Louis in 1911).