Ernest Gooden (Courtesy of Vincent Ciaramella)

Ernest Gooden

This article was written by Vincent T. Ciaramella

Ernest Gooden (Courtesy of Vincent Ciaramella)Monongahela Cemetery in North Braddock, Pennsylvania offers some of the most spectacular views in the Pittsburgh area. Overlooking the Monongahela River Valley, the cemetery has its origins in a charter issued on February 24, 1893, by “the Hon. John H. Barley, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the establishment of a cemetery in the Braddock area.”1 It became the final resting place of many immigrants from eastern, central, and southern Europe – and later, African Americans who came to the area during the Great Migration starting in the early 20th century.

One such final resting place sits unmarked in Section 10, about halfway up the hill. That grave belongs to Ernest E. “Pud” Gooden, a baseball player and businessman who died on October 12, 1934, at the age of 33 or 34, depending on the source.2 Though he isn’t a household name today, Gooden was a local favorite back in the early days of Negro League baseball in the Smoky City. He played with some of the other local greats like Willis Moody, Sellers Hall, and Ralph Mellix, as well as a nationally recognized titan, Rube Foster.3 Gooden’s overall career in the majors was short, but he had a long amateur, semipro, and independent career that stretched from youth to a few years before his untimely death from a heart attack.4

Gooden’s family can be traced far back into our nation’s past. His first known ancestor, a great-grandfather, is listed as “Tho. Goodwin.” Little is known about him other than that he was married to Courtney Goodwin (née Smith), and that the couple resided in Temperance Amherst, Virginia (known simply as Amherst).5 The couple had a son, Stephan/Stephen Goodwin (1848-1922), who married Sarah M. Goodwin (c. 1851-?). Stephan was a “Farm Laborer” according to the 1870 census and is listed as “white” while Sarah is listed as “black.” A decade later, the 1880 census lists him as a “mulatto.”6 Regardless, the couple resided in the same area as Stephan’s parents; they had a child named Patrick Goodwin in 1870 (though his marriage licenses list his birthday as May 31,1872 for reasons unknown, and the Pittsburgh Registry of Deaths records 1873).7

By 1897, Patrick had moved to Pittsburgh and brought Agnes J. Goodwin (née Jackson) with him from Virginia. In the 1900 census, he is listed as a “Day Laborer.” It is also noteworthy that Ernest does not appear in the records at this time, making his possible birth year 1901, depending on when the census was taken. The 1900 census also lists Patrick as “Henry Patrick,” which is incorrect.8 Just when and why Patrick changed the spelling of the family surname is unclear. On his marriage license in 1897 the name is listed as “Gooden,” while on the 1900 census it reverts to “Goodwin.”9

The couple welcomed Ernest E. Gooden into the world on February 4, 1900/1901.10 Patrick died on October 6, 1905, of what is now called “tuberculous meningitis” and was interred in Homewood Cemetery outside of Pittsburgh.11 What effect this had on young Ernest is unknown. What we do know is that his involvement in baseball began at an early age; his name started appearing in the papers in his pre-teen years.

On May 2, 1913, the Pittsburg Press introduced the world to Ernest Gooden in the Amateur Baseball section of the paper. In just two sentences, we see the beginning of what would become an outstanding amateur career.

Imperial Seconds of Brushton challenge 11 year old teams. Write Earnest Gooden, 7755 Calhoun St.12

Just two years later, on the Fourth of July, Gooden’s name appeared in a box score for the first time pitching for the Spalding baseball team. They played against another local team from Coraopolis (Pennsylvania) and won 9-8.13 A few weeks later, on July 20, Gooden played left field and third base for a team called “Crescent,” scoring one run and making one error.14 Gooden continued throughout the remainder of the summer playing for Spalding (or the Spalding Cubs, as they were sometimes listed) and into both the 1916 and 1917 seasons.15 Some noteworthy stops in his early amateur career include umpiring a game in 1917 in which the Spalding A.A. took on a team called “Van Kirk.” Later, he struck out nine players in a 13-inning game while playing for Spalding against the Northside (Pittsburgh) Y.M.C.A.16

In 1918, Gooden took the mound for Westinghouse High School (located in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh) as well as playing shortstop.17 Later, in 1919, he split his time between his high school team and managing a local “colored club” called the Cremona Club.18 During this period, Gooden faced a future Pittsburgh Pirate, Steve Swetonic, who pitched for Allegheny High.19 The two squared off in the city championship game in 1920; Swetonic and Allegheny beat Gooden and Westinghouse, 8-5.20

However, Gooden wasn’t confined to high school baseball. He ran track, played for Rich Jones’ Colored All-Stars, and began playing for Sell Hall’s American Giants. The latter was an independent team that included future managing editor of the Pittsburgh Courier and lifelong friend, William “Bill” Nunn Sr.21 Gooden’s first game with the American Giants was against Canonsburg (Pennsylvania); they won 6-5. Gooden played the “hot corner” and scored one run.22 Later that summer, on September 2, he played a doubleheader with the American Giants while injured. The Pittsburgh Post reported that “Gooden at short for the Giants displayed unusual gameness by playing both games with a splintered arm [and] performed brilliantly.”23

By 1920, Gooden was playing full time for the Central Park Green Stockings (formerly the American Giants and named for their ballfield, located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh). Teammates included local players like Willis Moody, Bill Nunn, and Ralph “Lefty” Mellix.24 On August 27, 1920, Rube Foster’s Chicago Giants took on the Green Stockings at Central Park. The Pittsburgh Post reported “Rube Foster’s Chicago Giants ran into stiff opposition last evening at Central Park when Sel [sic] Hall held them hitless for four innings, only to weaken in the fifth and sixth and allow them to score enough runs to tie up the game 3-3 before darkness ended it in the eighth.” Gooden, who was at shortstop, scored one run that game.25

For the remainder of the 1920 season, Gooden played with the Green Stockings. However, the following year, he played for two of Pittsburgh’s iconic baseball teams.

As the spring of 1921 dawned, Gooden’s name appeared alongside others set to join Sell Hall for another season with the American Giants.26 However, he ended up playing for the Keystones alongside Willis Moody, John Francis “Hap” Allen Jr, and Archie Barnett, along with player/manager Fred Downer.27 This second incarnation of the Keystones was an associate member of the Negro National League, which is now categorized as major league baseball. Gooden’s first mention in a box score with his new team appeared on May 28.28 Batting and throwing right, he doubled and scored one run in a runaway 16-6 victory for the Keystones over a local team from Becks Run (an area south of Pittsburgh).

But the Keystones didn’t just play local ball clubs. On June 1, they hosted the Bacharach Giants of Atlantic City (New Jersey) at Central Park in the Hill District (the same field that the Green Stockings used the previous season). In a fast-paced game, the Bacharach Giants defeated the Keystones, 5-3.29 On June 20, the Keystones handed the Steubenville (Ohio) Hubs their first home defeat of the season, 15-8. The papers singled out Gooden, who scored two runs that game, reporting, “Gooden played best for the Keystones whose speed and hitting ability was above that of their opponents.”30

For the remainder of the 1921 season, the Keystones took on a variety of teams from across the area and beyond. On July 17, they took on the P.J. Sullivans, a local team based in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The Sullivans, who had been around since the beginning of the 20th century, were no match for the Keystones, who defeated them 4-1. On July 27, the Keystones whipped a team called “The Malones,” 19-4, with Gooden scoring three runs.31 On August 8, the Keystones lost to the Columbus (Ohio) Buckeyes in what the papers called a “hard fought game,” 6-5. Sorry to say, Gooden’s only contribution was an error.32

At the end of the season, Gooden finished with a .190 batting average over 21 games played for the Keystones. Sources also list him playing for the Homestead Grays in three games during the 1921 season, though no articles or game writeups have surfaced yet.

Gooden rode the crest of the Keystone wave into the following season, putting up his best numbers: a .223 batting average over 39 games played. One memorable opponent that year was the Indianapolis ABCs. With a future Hall of Famer, Oscar Charleston, the ABCs were also a part of the National Negro League. On June 8, 1922, they came to Central Park to take on the Keystones and won 8-2.33 A few weeks later, on June 24, the Keystones, now a full-time member of the Negro National League, took on the other Pittsburgh powerhouse: the Homestead Grays, with Clarence James “Win” Harris, Forrest Mashaw, and former teammates Willis Moody and Hap Allen.

Unfortunately, the game came to a premature conclusion. As the Pittsburgh Gazette-Times reported, “The first game in the series against the Homestead Grays stopped in the ninth inning when a fight between players took place at first base over a decision and inspired the spectators to follow suit. The umpire called the game.” Gooden played second that night and scored one run. It is unknown if he took part in the brawl.34

Two days later, on June 26, the Keystones took on a team strangely listed as the Cuban X Giants, though it was made up of Sell Hall’s American Giants, which included Ralph Mellix, Bill Nunn, and other former teammates of Gooden. The final score of the game was 6-3, with the Keystones coming out on top.35 Gooden doubled and scored one run.

He wasn’t done playing for the season – he took the field for Wemco in the Negro Industrial League. In a box score dated September 17, Gooden is listed as pitcher, his old position back in his amateur days. Wemco took on Duquesne (it is unclear if the sources mean the university or something else) and won, 4-2.36

Off the field that year, Gooden began dabbling in buying and selling real estate, a career that would last until the Great Depression of 1929.37

The 1923 season was Gooden’s last in top-level competition – but far from his last in baseball. To that point, every team he’d played for was from Pittsburgh – but then he went west. In April the papers reported that Gooden was going to sign with Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants, joining players like Jimmie Lyons, Floyd “Jelly” Gardner, and Jim Brown.38 However, it doesn’t appear that he ever suited up for the team. Gooden bounced around the Negro National League that season, playing for the Toledo (Ohio) Tigers, Cleveland (Ohio) Tate All-Stars, and the Detroit (Michigan) Stars. All were short stints, with a total of 11 or 15 games played between the three (depending on the source).

What caused this nomadic season is unclear – there isn’t a lot of source material to go by. However, in one game for the Toledo Tigers, Gooden’s play prompted the Pittsburgh Courier to run the headline “Gooden, Pittsburgh Lad, Shifted to Third Base and Improvement in Inner Works Is Noticeable.” The article stated, “Gooden at third was a revelation, playing the position like a veteran.”39 In that game against the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Bears, Gooden scored one run and made one error. The Tigers won, 6-5.40

Gooden’s overall batting average dropped in 1923 to .094 (in 11 games) or .075 (in 15 games), depending on the source. This may indicate why he bounced around, but again, there is no definitive answer. Regardless, in 1924 Gooden was back in familiar territory, playing for the Pittsburgh Keystones. The Pittsburgh Courier stated, “The Pittsburgh Giants, Sell Hall’s team, will re-open the old Central Park grounds this year, and with one of the strongest teams Pittsburgh has yet seen.”41

Gooden continued to play for the Keystones on and off until 1925. He also played for a variety of local teams from 1925 through 1927, including the Beltzhoover Black Sox (Beltzhoover is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh), managed by Ralph Mellix; the Brown Stars, Brushton C.C.’s (Brushton is another neighborhood in Pittsburgh near Homewood); Rankin Drugs (Rankin is a small town outside of Pittsburgh next to Braddock); and the Beltzhoover Colored Independents.42

In an article published on July 10, 1926, he is listed as “Pud” Gooden, though the origins of this nickname are not known at this time.43

Gooden apparently took a couple of years off but returned to playing local ball again in 1930 for the Brown Stars.44 On May 25, 1930, the last known box score which included him can be found in the Pittsburgh Press. The Homestead Grays played a doubleheader against two different teams, one being the Brown Stars. Gooden played second and made no significant contributions to the game.45 If he played beyond this point, there are no writeups to be found at this time.

Sad to relate, like his father, Ernest E. Gooden died young. Beyond his age, sources also differ on the date: it was October 12, 1934 (though some mistakenly list the 19th).46 One newspaper also incorrectly listed his age as 73, though this is obviously a typo. That same paper also listed him as the former editor of a defunct local colored newspaper, the Pittsburgh “American,” though no other sources make that claim.47

Furthermore, the location of his death is disputed. One source said he died at the home of his friend Bill Nunn, while another stated that he died in the car of Dr. W.H. Christianson as he was being rushed to “the Pittsburgh Hospitalfollowing a heart attack.48

Gooden was remembered as a businessman, working for the circulation department of the Pittsburgh Courier, and as a ballplayer. A fitting headline stated in a final tribute to the local baseball figure:

“The Great Umpire Called Gooden ‘Out’”49



This biography was reviewed by Donna L. Halper and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Ray Danner.



In addition to the sources shown in the notes, the author used and the following:

US Census Bureau, 1870, 1880, 1900 US Census




2 “Death Notices,” Pittsburgh Press, October 13, 1934: 12. “Called Out,” Pittsburgh Courier, October 20, 1934: 1. Ernest Gooden Death Certificate.

3 “Baseball,” Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), April 12, 1923: 12.

4 “Former Editor Dies,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 13, 1934: 4. Ernest Gooden Death Certificate.

5 Tho. Goodwin Marriage Certificate. Courtney Smith Death Certificate.

6 Courtney Smith Death Certificate. 1870 US Census. 1880 US Census

7 1870 US Census. Patrick H. Gooden Marriage Certificate. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Register of Death 1870-1905.

8 Patrick H. Gooden Marriage Certificate. 1900 US Census.

9 Patrick H. Gooden Marriage Certificate. 1900 US Census.

10 Ernest Gooden Death Certificate.

“Ernest Gooden Dies,” Pittsburgh Courier, October 20, 1934:4.

11 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Register of Death 1870-1905.

12 “Amateur Baseball,” Pittsburgh Press, May 2, 1913: 29.

13 “Win Seventh Straight,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 4, 1915: 24.

14 “Renne A.C., 28; Crescent 17,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 20, 1915: 9.

15 “Gibsons Shut Out,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, September 21, 1915: 12.

16 “Spalding A.A. 4, Van Kirk 3,” Pittsburgh Press, June 3, 1917: 25. “Y.M.C.A. Wins Long Game,” Pittsburgh Press, September 9, 1917: 27.

17 “Westinghouse Takes First,” Pittsburgh Press, May 1, 1918: 24. “Westinghouse Downs Schenley,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 25, 1918: 10.

18 “Amateur Baseball Directory,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 28, 1919: 13. “Colored Club Wants Games,” Pittsburgh Press, December 14, 1919: 35.

19 “Westinghouse Wins,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, May 3, 1919: 10.

20 “Called Out.” “Allegheny Wins City Ball Title,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 18, 1919: 12.

21 “Peabody High Takes Honors in School Meet,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 15, 1919: 13. “Field Club Wins,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 26, 1919: 12. “Halls Beat Canonsburg,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 15, 1919: 21.

22 “Halls Beat Canonsburg,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 15, 1919: 21.

23 “Martins Defeats Sell Hall’s Twice,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, September 2, 1919: 13.

24 “Green Stockings Win,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, August 26, 1920: 8.

25 “Chicago Giants Held to Tie by Locals,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, August 28, 1920: 6.

26 “Giants Plan for Season,” Pittsburgh Press, March 24, 1921: 29.


28 “Keystones Win Again,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, May 28, 1921: 10.

29 “Atlantic City Tossers Defeat Keystones, 5 to 3,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 2, 1921: 9.

30 “Keystones Win,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 20, 1921: 9.

31 “Keystones Swamp Malone,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 28, 1921: 13.

32 “Keystones Win,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, August 9, 1921: 9.

33 “Indianapolis A.B.C. Nine Beats Keystones,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 9, 1922: 13.

34 “Keystone Game Stopped,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 24, 1922: 10.

35 “Keystone Nine Defeats Cuban X Giants, 6 to 3,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 27, 1922: 12.

36 “Negro Industrial League,” Pittsburgh Press, September 17, 1922: 31.

37 “E.E. Gooden,” Pittsburgh Press, October 21, 1922: 9. “Ernest Gooden Dies.”

38 “Baseball,” Courier-News, April 12, 1923: 12.

39 “Gooden, Pittsburgh Lad, Shifted to Third Base and Improvement in Inner Works Is Noticeable,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 2, 1923: 6.

40 “Toledo Infield Shifted; Break Even with Bears,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 2, 1923: 6.

41 “Rags Roberts to Pilot Sell Hall’s Giants,” Pittsburgh Courier, March 15, 1924: 6.

42 “Black Sox Booking; Open Next Wednesday,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 2, 1925: 13. “Etna Elks Withdraw from Sandlot Series; Many Players Signed,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 26, 1925: 28. “Brushton C.C.’s Defeat Monarchs in Hot Game,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 3, 1926: 14. “Rankin Drugs Beat Edgar Thompson Nine,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 11, 1926: 14. “Warming Up with the Sandlotters,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 10, 1927: 32.

43 “Those Brushton C.C.’s,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 10, 1926: 15.

44 “Brown Stars Win,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 17, 1930: 20.

45 “Grays Add Two Wins to String,” Pittsburgh Press, May 25, 1930: 47.

46 “Former Editor Dies,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 13, 1934: 4.

47 Ernest Gooden Death Certificate.

48 “Former Editor Dies.” “Called Out.”

49 “The Great Umpire Called Gooden ‘Out,’” Pittsburgh Courier, October 20, 1934: 14.

Full Name

Ernest E. Gooden


February 4, 1900 at Pittsburgh, PA (USA)


October 19, 1934 at Pittsburgh, PA (USA)

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