The Best Pitcher in Baseball: The Life of Rube Foster, Negro League Giant

The Best Pitcher in Baseball: The Life of Rube Foster, Negro League Giant

The Best Pitcher in Baseball: The Life of Rube Foster, Negro League Giant

The Best Pitcher in Baseball: The Life of Rube Foster, Negro League Giant

Synopsis

When Rube Foster was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, his rightful place alongside baseball's greatest black heroes was at last firmly established. A world-class pitcher, a formidable manager, and a brilliant administrator, Rube Foster was arguably more influential in breaking down the color barrier in major league baseball than the venerable Jackie Robinson.

Born in 1879, Rube Foster pitched for the legendary black baseball teamsthe Cuban X-Giants and the Philadelphia Giants before becoming player-manager of the Leland Giants and the Chicago American Giants. Long a central figure in black baseball, he founded baseball's first black leaguethe Negro National League in 1920. From its inception, the Negro League served as a vehicle through which many of the finest black players could showcase their considerable talents. Challenging racial discrimination and stereotypes, it ultimately set the stage for future efforts to contest Jim Crow.

Despite the long-standing success of the Negro National League as an influential black institution, Rube Foster was deeply embittered by organized baseball's unmitigated refusal to lift the color barrier. He died a broken man in 1930.

The Best Pitcher in Baseball is the story of a man of unparalleled vision and organizational acumen whose passion for justice changed the face of baseball forever. It is a moving tribute to a man and his dream.

Excerpt

Rube Foster, it can readily be argued, was black baseball’s greatest figure, although many claim that distinction for Jackie Robinson, who played but one season with the Kansas City Monarchs. Robinson’s place in the annals of baseball and American history is, of course, secure. the minor league contract he signed with Branch Rickey in 1945 shattered the segregation barrier that had long soiled the national pastime. Then, as the first African American to perform in organized baseball in the twentieth century, Robinson starred as a member of the famed “Boys of Summer”; he helped to lead the Brooklyn Dodgers to six National League pennants, and, in 1955, to their first and only World Series championship. But as baseball historians have come to acknowledge, the story of Jackie Robinson and a procession of splendid African American major leaguers was possible only because of the earlier struggles and enduring accomplishments of Rube Foster and his black compatriots.

Foster was a true triple threat: he was black baseball’s top pitcher during the first decade of the twentieth century, its finest manager, and its most creative administrator. But the 6′1″ tall, 200-plus-pound Foster was still more: he was the man, more than any other individual, who all but single-handedly ensured black baseball’s continuance in a period when it demanded all his legendary skill, acumen, and energy to remain in existence.

Striding out of Texas, where he was born in 1879, three years after the National League was established, Foster passed through Arkansas and the Upper Midwest before temporarily settling along the East Coast. Boasting a blazing fastball, an exceptional curve, a deadly screwball-like pitch, and impeccable control, Foster established a reputation as the finest ebony-skinned hurler in the land. He pitched for the game’s top black teams, the Cuban X-Giants and the Philadelphia Giants, steering them to consecutive “colored” championships from 1902 to 1906. His superb performances in the 1903 and 1904 series, along with a triumph . . .

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