Out of the Shadows: African American Baseball from the Cuban Giants to Jackie Robinson

By Bill Kirwin | Go to book overview

JERRY JAYE WRIGHT


From Giants to Monarchs
The 1890 Season of the Colored Monarchs
of York, Pennsylvania

IN 1888, A COLUMN in the Sporting News stated: “There are players among these colored men that are equal to any white players on the ball field. If you don't think so, go out and see the Cuban Giants play. This club, with its strongest players on the field, would play a favorable game against such clubs as the New Yorks or Chicagos.”1

By the latter part of the nineteenth century, white baseball had long abandoned its origins as a simple boy's game and gentleman's social pastime, and evolved into a muscular professionalism. Popularized during the Civil War, and now a product of postwar prosperity, baseball rose to new heights of national prestige and commercial reward. Now, in the late 1880s, African American baseball embarked on a similar course as its white counterpart, and established itself as a viable economic entity with the birth of the Cuban Giants in 1885. This successful black enterprise led to the creation of a black subculture of baseball; black reporters for black newspapers writing for black fans about black players and managers on teams owned by black investors. For more than six decades, this was the future of Jim Crow baseball.2

Neither ethnically Cuban nor physiologically Giants, the Cuban Giants Base Ball Club played a key role in professional baseball's halting and uncertain drift toward the color line. A line that extended from racial tolerance of black players on white teams, to all black teams in otherwise all white leagues, to black teams in black leagues. The Cuban Giants experienced each of these stops along the color line and ultimately became the model for the final stop, which endured more than sixty years before the line ended with the signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947.3

From their formation in the late summer of 1885 to 1891, the Cuban Giants were the most successful and boasted, from time to time, some of the best black players of all the Negro Leagues, both nineteenth and

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