Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

The Southern against the South: The Chicago Conspiracy in the 1932 Negro Southern Baseball League

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

The Southern against the South: The Chicago Conspiracy in the 1932 Negro Southern Baseball League

Article excerpt

The "major" Negro league before and after 1932 was the Negro National League, but depression and declining revenues forced the circuit to close operations that year. In its absence rose the Negro Southern League (NSL) and the East-West Colored League, and the former included the small-town Monroe Monarchs, the team's first and only year of major league baseball. The Monarchs were a "minor" Negro league baseball team in the early 1930s, owned by Fred Stovall, a white oil magnate.

Monroe was a town of twenty-six thousand in the northeast corner of Louisiana, the hub of a poor cotton-farming region in the Mississippi Delta approximately seventy miles from the river and forty from the Arkansas border.1 Though the Monarchs won more and lost fewer games than the Chicago American Giants in that 1932 season, the League pennant was denied them. Chicago's victory has subsequently been mentioned in each of the brief statistical notations of the 1932 Negro Southern League without comment. The confusion of the season and the collapse of the National League have created unexamined assumptions about the outcomes of the year's black baseball. Twenty-first century Monroe, for example, still stands by the team's victory. No eyewitness testimony or reflective confession exists to prove that Monroe's pennant was stolen by its own league, but existing evidence casts doubt on the legitimacy of the standings printed in every baseball reference book that includes the 1932 Negro Leagues.

Fred Stovall wanted his Monarchs to be part of a new league in 1932, rather than the 1931 Texas League, which his team won. That organization was not headquartered in Monroe, nor was it a "major" league, and the success of Stovall's team the previous year led the owner to make an attempt for one or the other. A white Dallas native, Stovall came to Monroe in 1917, and by 1932 owned both the Stovall Drilling Company and the J.M. Supply Company, among other enterprises, allowing him to found his black baseball team with drilling employees in 1930. He never incorporated the team, even after its success led him to hire veteran professionals. By 1932, his Monroe Black Drillers acted as a company team while the Monarchs tended largely to baseball. His first move of the 19311932 intercession was to hire business manager H.D. "Doug" English from the Shreveport Sports, a fellow Texas League team the previous season, to administer both the team and a possible league. He then called a meeting of potential owners in Monroe, with representatives from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Alexandria from Louisiana, Little Rock, Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, and El Dorado from Arkansas, and Vicksburg, Natchez, and Jackson from Mississippi. The Tri-State League, as the potential aggregation would be called, met on January 22. "There seem[s] to be a change coming up the road," wrote Pitman E. Nedde, sports editor and columnist for the Shreoeport Sun, "but don't get glad too quick - it's a little too early."2

From that first meeting came the possibility of recruiting the much more prominent Memphis Red Sox for the new league. The Kansas City Monarchs, Cuban Giants, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Indianapolis Black Caps, and Chicago American Giants - all large market franchises - were considered potential associate members (a sort of honorific that would ensure the teams barnstormed through the new circuit). Monroe, New Orleans, Little Rock, and Jackson, known as the "Big Four," formed the nucleus of the potential league, and each team chose a representative to scout the region surrounding its city to investigate the conditions of other applicant towns. The Louisiana Weekly reported, "Many prominent white men seem interested in this movement and appear willing to help put this project over." However, by mid-February, the smaller market, originally-invited teams could not meet the monetary guarantee and the franchise purchase requirement, leaving only the larger area cities to field teams. …

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